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When You Spend Thanksgiving Alone: Tips for Adults on the Spectrum

Thanksgiving is a time of tradition, and traditions have a funny way of becoming expectations. But what if you are going to spend much - or all - of the Thanksgiving weekend alone? No matter the reason that you’re alone, you can make it a wonderful day all the same.  

Here’s how:

1. Be more physically active. Physical activity is one of the best ways to make yourself feel better.

2. Cook. One of my favorite things to do on Thanksgiving is to cook myself an elaborate meal (that may or may not fit-in with traditional Thanksgiving cuisine). This year (believe it or not), I am planning on making baked spaghetti, garlic bread, and a tossed salad. For desert, I will be having caramelized apples. Sound good?

3. Creating a “gratitude journal” can be a wonderful exercise in cultivating an attitude of gratitude, and can leave you with a written record of everything you have to value in your life. Read through it when you're feeling blue.

4. Curl up on the couch with hot chocolate, a warm blanket and a movie.

5. Donate your time to a cause you believe in. Helping others who are less fortunate than you can fill you with feelings of love and connectedness. You’ll be part of something larger than yourself, and you’ll be immersing yourself in the true spirit of “giving.”

6. Find places that will stimulate and amuse you. Museums, festivals or streets decorated for Thanksgiving might recharge you.

7. Fix up that guest room, do some indoor planting, or weather permitting, do some touch-ups outside your home.

8. Focus on things you really value in your life (e.g., your work, the hobbies you have, your potential, etc.).

9. Forget about what’s “supposed” to happen. Remember that a lot of people out there are doing what’s expected, and probably running themselves ragged. What they wouldn’t do for some time alone!

10. Have you been telling yourself you’d start painting again or get back to playing the guitar? Now’s your chance.

11. If you feel lonely much of the time, this may be a cue that some changes are in order for the coming year. You may want to examine what’s behind your feelings of loneliness, either on your own or with the help of a counselor.

12. If you’re on your own, a few friends or acquaintances might be, too. Get in touch with them and make some plans.

13. If you're feeling a lack of love in your life, make a concerted effort to focus on the love that you do have (e.g., from friends, family, neighbors, pets, etc.).

14. Is something inside of you causing you to keep people at a distance? Would you benefit from putting more time into your social life so that you have stronger relationships? If you’d like to deepen your friendships, it can cost a little extra time and energy, but the payoff is having increased support and feelings of being heard and understood.

15. Just because you’re not with family or friends doesn’t mean you can’t make contact. But make sure the calls are a nice diversion for the day, not the centerpiece of it. Enjoy the moments of contact, rather than dwelling on the fact that you’re not with family or friends.

16. Make your time alone count. Make it special. Then, when you’re through with personal time, pick some activities that will surround you with others.

17. One easy antidote to “feelings of lack” is to cultivate feelings of appreciation for what you already have. It's hard to focus on both at once.

18. Read a mystery novel by the fireplace.

19. Some people regain their equilibrium when they set one or two specific, manageable goals every day (e.g., cleaning out a closet or drawer, writing a letter, etc.). The satisfaction they get from completing these tasks adds to their sense of well-being.

20. Stop putting unreasonable pressure on yourself to be happy during the long Thanksgiving weekend. When you have legitimate reasons for being happy, acknowledge them and be gentle with yourself.

21. Take a candlelight bubble bath.

22. Take a walk.

23. Watch your consumption of alcohol. While a few drinks may make you feel temporarily euphoric, alcohol is a depressant and often ends up making you feel worse than before.

24. While it may be uncomfortable to feel lonely, it’s also okay to feel this way. Talking to others who may share your feelings (e.g., via the internet, or in real life) can help you to feel less alone in your situation.

25. While you may be feeling alone in your life right now, knowing that Thanksgiving can be a lonely time for many people may help you to feel less so.

Have fun. God bless!

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