This year has been hard. Since 2020, when we all collectively experienced the hardest year we could’ve imagined, we’ve waited for the shoe to drop. This year, it dropped like a heavy-soled leather boot–the kind of boot my daddy used to wear before their heaviness caused such pain in his feet and back he retired them.

This year, we sat in hospital waiting rooms for surgeries. We waited at home for phone calls from doctors and pathologists. We waited in car lines for funerals. It was a hard year for my family. Maybe it’s been a hard year for you.

Here Are Five Tips for Finding Thanksgiving

  1. Shine the light of Jesus on the dark days.
    When we know Jesus and shine the light of truth on our dark days, we can find thankfulness in the shadows. The key is to take apart the feelings and events that feel bad and fight them with truth. It’s not faking it, but ‘faithing’ it! Instead of believing you’re being punished, remember that God thinks the best of us, wants the best for us and loves us no matter what.
  2. Sing praises together and alone.
    When we sing praises to our God and Creator, it stirs thanksgiving in our hearts. When we sing with others, it brings us together in a different and sometimes new way. If you’re having trouble feeling thankful this Thanksgiving, you can find solace in God. Also, my favorite song on the topic is ‘Gratitude’ by Brandon Lake.
  3. Spend time in nature.
    If you believe in God and that He created the universe, go outside and spend time in nature. Walking in the beauty of autumn, kicking red, brown, and purple leaves along the path, and watching for little animals scurrying up tree trunks, you can’t help but feel grateful for all He has created. Try standing under a sunny sky and find pictures in the puffy clouds.
  4. Spend time with people you love.
    We have to admit that some people are harmful to our mental health, and spending too much time with these people when we’re already feeling very negative will only make the feeling worse. If you plan to spend the holidays with these kinds of people, invite someone who makes you laugh and feel valued.
  5. Serve others as much as possible. 
    It can be easy to feel victimized and fall deeper into negative self-talk when someone expects us to help with a holiday meal. Still, when we go into the experience expecting to–even planning to–serve others, it turns those negative thoughts on their head. You can prepare yourself even further by letting others know beforehand how you’d like to help.

These five generic tips may help you make the best of your holiday and find gratefulness in the occasion, but there are other factors to remember. For instance, if one person or circumstance has hurt you this year, make a special effort in that area. If your dad is sick, spend extra time with him during the holiday. If you aren’t feeling well, plan self-care before or after family gatherings.

Remember, it’s never so desperate that you cannot pray, it’s never too late to change a plan, and it’s never a bad time for a free or cheap experience in the place of a pricey tradition.