For once, I thought I wouldn’t have to go to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving. WRONG! As I looked at my kitchen and list, I realized we were short on what I thought were THE key items. This morning turned into a comedy of errors when I realized I’d left my purse where I taught, a looooong 20-minute traffic-filled distance away.

When I retrieved my purse, I realized how I have changed. “Old Shirley” would have been uptight and annoyed while rubbing a tense back. “Presence Shirley” was “chill,” simply thinking, “Let’s turn around and get the wallet. There’s no rush, but…” Then I noticed something powerful. My mind took control of that random, self-critic trying to take control. That “but”signaled a judgment.

Overcoming a lifelong habit that has circled around perfectionism hasn’t been easy. After all, it has been an ingrained mindset with intrinsic habitual responses. With the help of mindfulness and learning self-compassion, you can change. When I look at my groceries, I realize I could have adapted my expectations and gone home. Instead, a part of old Shirley took me back to the store – and yet “Presence Shirley” hit the parking lot relaxed and centered. Those simple changes were worth celebrating!

There are many ways to simplify your holidays. If you’re  unsure how to start, or cling to a classic case of “the shoulds,” ask yourself this: Are you willing to practice self-compassion? If you are hesitant to say, “no matter what I do, everything will be okay,” consider these:

  • Skip the dusting. Forget the last-minute cleaning. The person who really notices the dust is you, not others. If they do, think of the dust as adding character.
  • Forget those one or two items that “would make the dinner.” Accept that what you have is more than good enough. If you’re in a pinch, your friends or family might have what you need.
  • Breathe, laugh and smile. If you don’t feel particularly grateful, simply find ONE thing, no matter how small, that makes it worth your day to get up. A warm mug of coffee; breathing; a great song; connecting with friends and family.
  • Think of the kind words you’d say to friend, and direct those words to yourself – even if you don’t believe them! At some point, you will.
  • Ask yourself if Thanksgiving is about creating a Norman Rockwell rendition of the holiday – or about the intangibles. Love, connection, empathy, and thanks are priceless.
  • “I get it, but…” Notice “the buts” as distractions. Move on.
  • Thank or compliment one person a day.

As the cashier processed my order, I looked at the tense faces around me and noticed a sense of urgency. I decided to thank the cashier, and shared that I hoped her work day would go quickly. I then included the next customer and said, “May you both have a wonderful Thanksgiving.” They laughed and smiled. In that single moment, we connected, and the stress all around us faded. No matter how small a gesture or thought, stopping to appreciate what you have and giving others kindness can have a major impact on your day and theirs. Building self-compassion takes practice, but once you get in the groove, it becomes wonderfully contagious.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Reading

Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier. Harvard Health.

Thnx4 Gratitude App. Greater Good Science Center (interesting information on how you can incorporate gratitude into schools and the workplace)

25 Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude. The Chopra Center.

Gratitude and Wellbeing: The Benefits of Appreciation. 2010 Nov; 7(11): 18–22.