Maybe you want to save a few birds this year—or maybe you don’t even really like turkey. Regardless of how you’re feeling this season, there are plenty of ways to get away from the dinner table and explore a deeper appreciation of all the good the year has bestowed upon you this Thanksgiving holiday.

In our busy lives, it’s easy to overlook all the little things that make life less hectic and more inspiring. Even if you aren’t planning to wholly ditch tradition, it doesn’t hurt to get in touch with the spirit of the holiday and give thanks for things we can often end up taking for granted.

terramiacraft

Terra Mia pottery studio (Photo via Facebook)

1) Honor Everyday Creativity

One of the easiest ways to enjoy the present moment, in all of its glory and splendor, is to experience it through art. Flex those artistic muscles and host a craft-making party where friends and family members can hone their hot glue gun and felt making skills; while sharing stories about what the Thanksgiving holiday means to them. If you’re feeling less organized, you can still make something simple for your own Thanksgiving Day event that will leave a big impression. Another idea? Drop into an open pottery class at Terra Mia and make a gravy boat or a decorated serving spoon to bring to Thanksgiving. You can also hit up Artist & Craftsman Supply for materials and decorate personalized thank you notes for everyone on the guest list.

2) Volunteer and Give Back

Probably the most fashionable way to donate your time and energy to helping those in need around this holiday season is to join a local Turkey Trot. Not only does it get you out into the wild and exercising off that second helping of mashed potatoes and gravy, but the money raised here goes to helping the less fortunate. You can also donate directly to the local SF-Marin Food Bank, or volunteer for an organization like Little Brothers SF and bring a gift bag to an elderly person who might be spending Thanksgiving alone.

sfmarinfoodbank-2Photo courtesy of SF-Marin Food Bank

3) Revel in Nature’s Bounty

Play a more active part in the cooking process this time around and dedicate some time to learning more about how food is grown. Part of what the Thanksgiving holiday celebrates is the adoption of agricultural processes into the Americas by Native Americans, who taught them how to plant corn and fish. Host a potluck that focuses on just one crop (try corn or sweet potatoes) and have each person make a dish featuring that one ingredient. Go around the table and share a Thanksgiving memory from the past or one thing you are thankful for this year. You can tap into the landscape and get your hands dirty by learning to plant a new vegetable at one of the many community gardens and farm areas around the Bay. You can also do your part to support local farmers by doing any last-minute shopping at the CUESA Farmer’s Market Wednesday morning.

4) Find Space for Reflection

While it’s good to spend the holidays surrounded by friends and family, don’t forget to dedicate a little quality time to the most important person in your life: yourself. Get yourself to a relaxing yoga class before you dive into a day of gorging yourself and too much imbibing. Take deep breaths and remember to be less critical of yourself and others. Yoga Garden SF offers daily classes and 100% of the proceeds this week go to Rise Yoga for Youth. The East Bay Meditation Center is just one of a number of organizations that offer meditation classes you can join locally to help mull over problems or relax your mind before the big meal. If you want to take it one step further, you can visit a holistic spa like Zazen, which also offers massages and sensory deprivation float experiences that will free your mind up of clutter and help you focus on what’s really important.

indigenouspeoplesunriseSunrise Ceremony on Alcatraz Island (Photo via Facebook)

5) Honor Stories of the Past

While the history of the Thanksgiving holiday is arguably questionable and doesn’t exactly sit well with many, the more exceptional challenge can be in finding ways to appropriately acknowledge the nation’s milestones. If you’re an early riser or feeling exceptionally well-rested on Thursday morning, head out to Alcatraz Island bright and early (3AM to 6AM) for a special Indigenous People Sunrise Ceremony in remembrance of California’s native peoples. You can also swing by the San Francisco Maritime Museum to learn a little about indigenous people living in the Bay—before it graciously got its “Frisco” nickname. While there are plenty of Native American Heritage Sites you might seek out cross the Bay, the rolling hills and glimmering coastlines are also packed with tons of history. Take a hike with a pen and a pad to a beautiful National Parks location, like Point Reyes or the Marin Headlands, and write down five things you’re grateful for this year.