What if You’re Alone on Thanksgiving?

Every Thanksgiving is different, and some years may not bring a family gathering. When that happens, the holiday may be a source of loneliness, a reminder of lost or distant loved ones, and a time of depression. It is easy to say to count your blessings, but sometimes we all have trouble finding the blessings in our sadness. There is no easy answer or cure for such feelings, but there are some things that may help mitigate them.

If you have family or friends to whom you can reach out, do so. This could take place in any of several ways. It may be possible to physically go visit them. Good friends will be happy to be available for you when you need it, even if they are busy. Take advantage of the opportunity if it arises.

If that’s not possible, perhaps a phone call would help you connect. Or, try writing a letter. This could be to a loved one who is not with you, or to someone who has made a difference in your life. Thank them for what they’ve contributed to your life, and tell them what they mean to you. Remember good times you had together.

You don’t have to know someone to reach out to them. Spend the day helping at a soup kitchen, or visit a hospital or elder-care facility and visit with other people who are alone. You may find that helping others brings you joy; and you may even find a new friend.

If you know ahead of time that you will be alone, plan to help an animal shelter or similar facility. Usually, this must be arranged ahead of time, but the facilities are often happy for the help. Many times, their workers are out of town or taking the day off, but the animals still need to be fed and cared for. Or, perhaps a neighbor needs someone to look after their pet while they go out of town. In addition to helping the animals, you could be helping yourself: research has shown that interacting with animals brings contentment.

Keep the lights on. Many people don’t turn on lights for just themselves, but that could be a mistake. Doctors now know that darkness can sometimes deepen depression. Keep the environment bright, and it may help keep your spirits bright as well.

Music also affects our moods. Play something that brings good memories.

But avoid alcohol – it’s a depressant.

Above all, if you are concerned that you may hurt yourself, seek help immediately by calling a helpline or going to a medical clinic. There are people trained to help, but you won’t know the difference they can make until you give them a chance.

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