7 Tips for Enjoying a Solo Thanksgiving

Here’s how to make the most of—and enjoy—your table for one this holiday.

While "me time" can be a welcome respite from the world's hectic pace, it can get a little lonely if you aren't making a choice to spend time alone. Especially if you're alone during the holidays, like Thanksgiving, when you're accustomed to being with friends and family.

"Fortunately, there is much to be grateful for even if you're marking it [Thanksgiving] at home with yourself," explains Tracy Thomas, Ph.D., psychologist and founder of Dr. Tracy Inc., an emotional training company in California. "As an emotional scientist who helps people build the emotional strength they need to succeed, one of the most important shifts a person can make is to deepen self-connection. This opens up the ability to experience everything more deeply, peacefully and enjoyably—regardless of external circumstances."

Woman grading cheese into a skillet in a kitchen
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7 Tips for Those Celebrating Thanksgiving Alone

So instead of thinking of it as a lonely Thanksgiving, here's how to enjoy a solo Thanksgiving.

1. Start the Day by Jotting Down a Gratitude List

"As Thanksgiving approaches, it's important to develop a sense of gratitude," Thomas says, especially for those who might be celebrating alone for the first time.

So to find the bright spots amidst the chaos. Open your Notes app or pull out a journal and write five things you're grateful for. Numerous studies have proven that those who make a concerted effort to count their blessings (the rationale behind Thanksgiving, after all) are less likely to be depressed and more likely to lead happier lives.

Buy It: The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: A Five-Year Record ($15, Walmart)

2. Use Social Media Intentionally

Do you tend to experience FOMO or feel bummed out by seeing others celebrating when you're solo? If so, keep your phone in a drawer and stop scrolling through updates from friends and family.

If you do find joy in connecting and communicating online, feel free to log on. Just keep this advice from Thomas in mind:

"Whatever you do with social media, it's important to recognize what your intentions are and make sure you're acting with intention, so you actually achieve what you're wanting, rather than just cycling into lower emotional states that can make you feel worse. Use these tools to fulfill intentions," she says. For example, texting friends and family or sharing photos of what you're grateful for on Instagram stories is positive, instead of focusing on what you're potentially missing out on.

3. Partake in a Virtual Holiday

If you can't be with the people you love in person, set a time and pick a platform to get together virtually. Cook together remotely, and dig into a Thanksgiving recipe you've shared together in the past.

4. Do Something to Treat Yourself

Those who engage in more self-care experience lower levels of stress and higher quality of life, according to a study in the journal BMC Medical Education.

Self-care doesn't have a one-size-fits-all definition. Instead, it's personal and should be aligned with what makes you less anxious and depressed. This can be as simple as slipping on your softest socks, lighting a favorite candle, or playing a nostalgic playlist, or as big as planning a vacation or opening up a special bottle of wine.

5. Order Takeout, If You Like

Supporting small businesses is always a good idea. If you have a local restaurant you love, go ahead and skip the homemade Thanksgiving menu and outsource the cooking this year. Whether it's a traditional Thanksgiving, pizza delivery, or Indian cuisine via curbside carryout, you make the rules, so choose whatever feeds your soul.

Drunken Game Hens
Andy Lyons

6. Try This Single-Serving Thanksgiving Menu

If you're in the mood for something more like mom or grandma made, Colleen Weeden of the Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen suggests roasting a cornish game hen. "They're perfect for a single. Season as you like, then roast at 375° F for 1 ½ hours," she says.

For the sides, try "baking" a single sweet potato in the microwave until tender, then garnish with…

  • Sweet: Mascarpone cheese and a drizzle of maple syrup
  • Savory: Butter, salt, and pepper

Buy a canister or box of stuffing mix and follow instructions to make a serving for one. "Make a full or half batch of cranberry sauce," Weeden advises. "Don't worry if it's too much. Then you can use it to spread on sandwiches, toast, pancakes, French toast, or use as a sundae topping."

My family loves corn casserole, so you could cook an ear of corn and riff on street corn," Weeden says. Slice off the kernels and garnish them with Elote Corn Topper.

"For dessert, purchase mini graham shells (like these Keebler Ready Graham Pie Crusts, $3 for six, Target) and fill with lemon curd or your favorite pudding. Then top with a squirt of whipped topping and add a fun sprinkle of mini chips or multi-colored sprinkles," Weeden says.

7. Don't Forget to Be In the Moment

"Check in with yourself as often as you check your phone so you keep building connection to yourself instead of continually disconnecting from painful and stressful emotions and thoughts," Thomas says.

Feel what you need to feel, even if that's not positive. It's OK to be bummed too. So cry, vent, exercise, let it out—then open up that self-care toolbox again.

Just remember: "You're a powerful creator of all of your experiences no matter what you choose to focus on—choose your focus in every moment so you can create the best Thanksgiving possible this year," Thomas says.

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