Recipe for a Delicious, Strengths-Fueled Thanksgiving

Here in the United States we’re approaching the Thanksgiving holiday. Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or something else right now, it’s the holiday season for most of us. As you might already know, experiences and emotions around the holidays can run high, ranging from joy and camaraderie to loneliness and depression. Wherever you are on that continuum, your character strengths can help boost your enjoyment, buffer stress, and even reduce depression. Below is a recipe for a delicious, strengths-fueled Thanksgiving. Share it with all who wish to make every day a holiday.

Ingredients

Top 3 signature strengths
2 parts strengths-spotting
1 or more “happiness strengths” (I recommend Gratitude and Hope, for starters)
At least 1 overused strength, tempered
At least 1 underused strength, elevated

Step 1

Choose 3 of your top signature strengths, and identify one new way you’ll express them Thanksgiving day.

Using a signature strength in a new way every day for a week can increase happiness and reduce depression. To identify your signature strengths, take the free, scientific survey.

I’m choosing my top 3 – Creativity, Humor and Perspective. For Creativity, I’ll experiment with cranberry relish flavors and create my own new recipe. I love unleashing my Creativity in the kitchen, combining flavors in interesting ways. When I think of my family enjoying my creations, I feel contented and happy.

Humor will lighten my mood when I start feeling the weight of everything that came before – the push to finish work projects, last-minute shopping, cooking, cleaning and setting up. My all-time favorite video makes me laugh every time. I can’t resist those cherubic faces and the giggles that come from them. Watching the quadruplets always brightens my day and provides a burst of enjoyment.

When feeling depleted, whether temporarily or chronically, it’s important to remind yourself of the things that support your well-being. So I’ll place a sticky note that says “quadruplets” on the kitchen wall. Not only will this remind me to engage my Humor and prioritize my well-being, it’s also a conversation starter.

Perspective is probably my best friend when in pressure-filled situations. During holidays, there never seems to be enough time to work, exercise, sleep, shop, cook, clean, and prepare for the relationship drama that sometimes sprouts up. Of course, I want time with family and friends to be picture-perfect, but it never is. It’s just not realistic to think it will be.

Instead, I will periodically step back to take in and notice what everyone is doing. Are we enjoying ourselves? Does anyone seem to be in distress? Is there something I can do or not do to create a more positive experience? I like to enjoy myself when with family and friends, and Perspective helps me do that.

Which of your top strengths will you choose for your holiday recipe? If you’d like to feel more confident discussing your strengths, consider registering for a personal coaching session with me to Power Up and strengthen your strengths.

Step 2

Add 2 parts strengths-spotting in yourself and the people around you.

Strengths-spotting is a gift you can give on every occasion. It is the gift of seeing and valuing others for their best qualities. When your 10-year-old is behaving well, appreciate her Self-regulation.  When you notice someone being helpful, point out his Kindness. Don’t forget to notice your own strengths – how your Bravery led you to this moment in time, or how your Honesty is helping you feel or act authentically.

For extra sweetness, spot the strengths in someone with whom you have a difficult relationship or who is rubbing you the wrong way. Notice the effect this has on not only the person, but you. To learn more about strengths-spotting, check out Week 2 in my book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best.

Step 3

Choose 1 or more “happiness strengths” and add a healthy portion of each. I recommend Gratitude and Hope for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Five character strengths are highly correlated with life satisfaction and happiness. These strengths are Gratitude, Hope, Love, Zest, and Curiosity. Gratitude is inherent in the Thanksgiving holiday, but we don’t always remember to express it. No matter how bad things get, there is always something to feel grateful for – the sunny sky, a dear friend, good health. Take a moment before sitting down for a meal to notice and appreciate the blessings in your life. If you’re with others, ask each person to name what or who they feel grateful for, and notice the elevation effect.

Hope helps us think positively about the future. Ask everyone to write down what they’re looking forward to. Read the responses aloud to share this positive vision. Here are more tips for boosting Gratitude, Hope, and other happiness strengths.

Step 4

Add at least 1 overused strength, tempered, and 1 underused strength, elevated.

Which of your strengths might you tend to overuse or underuse during holidays? Some of us become overly critical when under stress, overusing Judgement. Temper that strength by taking a few deep breaths to reset and open your mind. Others might forget that even a crabby relative deserves Kindness. Elevate your Kindness by speaking to him with kind words or striking up a conversation to get to know her better.

Step 5

Fold all ingredients carefully and gently together to infuse your strengths into Thanksgiving, or any holiday. Feel free to add more of your unique blend of character strengths for added sweetness.

Enjoy!

Remember that this recipe is your recipe. It is within your reach to have a delicious, strengths-fueled holiday. Choose your ingredients according to who you are at this moment and who you wish to become during the next holiday. And don’t forget to share it with your loved ones to multiply the goodness!

May all your holidays and days be fueled by your strengths.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!