As we approach Thanksgiving, things are no doubt different than they were in years past. For some, there won’t be gatherings due to health concerns, while others might go about business as usual. For others, if they’ve lost a loved one, it will be a holiday like no other. And some people will attempt to have a modified and safe version of the holiday.   

For the latter, here’s how you can wrap your mind around Thanksgiving 2020 and make the best of it:

Shift your focus. Rather than focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do. By thinking about how you’re missing out on the usual traditions and big gatherings, you’ll set yourself up for feeling pretty lousy and upset. Instead, acknowledge that these are unprecedented times and do your best to carry out some traditions. This will help you to keep expectations in check and set yourself up for a fine day.

Acceptance. Accept that times are different this year, and don’t try urgently to replicate Thanksgiving from previous years at the cost of your health or other people’s health. Now is a time to demonstrate understanding and flexibility and your ability to adapt to challenging times — not a time to tempt science.

Be grateful. After all, this is a holiday about being thankful.  Ask yourself: what are you thankful for this year?  This year, perhaps more than others, there’s more to appreciate, health being chief among them. If you don’t already acknowledge what you’re thankful for on Thanksgiving, this is a good year to start.

Change your thoughts.  Do you think the world is all doom and gloom and the pandemic is endless?  Or, do you perhaps have hope that scientists are working on a vaccine and better days are ahead?

Here are some practical tips for making Thanksgiving a success:

  • If you are hosting Thanksgiving, don’t be afraid to request that guests get a COVID test to ensure peace of mind. Then, tap into your creativity and find a way to connect with loved ones and friends, whether that’s virtually or safely in person.
  • If possible, eat outside to minimize possible exposure to the virus.  
  • Be creative with masks. Kids can dress up as mask-wearing pilgrims or turkeys.
  • Separate kids from the rest of the guests. Kids, especially if attending school, may have been more exposed to the virus than others. So make sure they sit at a different table and away from elderly or at-risk guests.
  • Have guests bring their own side dish. By bringing their own food, they may feel safer knowing it wasn’t exposed to the virus.
  • Avoid buffet style serving at your home. This encourages gathering/crowds, so instead have the host serve as individuals come into the kitchen, one at a time, to get their food.


  • Jonathan Alpert

    Psychotherapist, executive performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Twitter: @JonathanAlpert

    Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist, columnist, performance coach and author in Manhattan. As a psychotherapist, he has helped countless couples and individuals overcome a wide range of challenges and go on to achieve success. He discussed his results-oriented approach in his 2012 New York Times Opinion piece, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already”, which continues to be debated and garner international attention. Alpert is frequently interviewed by major TV, print and digital media outlets and has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, FOX, and Good Morning America discussing current events, mental health, hard news stories, celebrities/politicians, as well as lifestyle and hot-button issues. He appears in the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job commenting on the financial crisis. With his unique insight into how people think and their motivations, Alpert helps clients develop and strengthen their brands. He has been a spokesperson for NutriBullet, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Jonathan’s 2012 book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days has been translated into six languages worldwide. Alpert continues to provide advice to the masses through his, Huffington Post, and Thrive columns. @JonathanAlpert