How to Cope When You Are Alone on Thanksgiving

Volunteers at a soup kitchen.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

Being alone on Thanksgiving can feel challenging. This holiday is a time of year that many people spend in the company of family and friends.

You may even find yourself alone this time of year if you live with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Perhaps you turned down invitations to gatherings because of your anxiety, or maybe your relatives live out of town. Whatever the reason for being alone, there are ways that you can feel less lonely.

How to Cope With Being Alone

In general, there are three ways to cope with being alone this year.

  • Accept that you are alone and make the most of your time.
  • Find people to FaceTime or Zoom with so that you don't feel so lonely.
  • Spend the holiday making plans for how you will spend Thanksgiving next year

Accept Being Alone

Accepting being alone doesn't necessarily mean staying home and feeling lonely. There are many things that you can do on Thanksgiving that put you in the company of people, or connect you with people, while you are still alone.


Traveling can take your mind off being alone on Thanksgiving. Try visiting one of the cities hosting a Thanksgiving Day parade; for example, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is held every Thanksgiving in New York City.

If you want to escape being alone on Thanksgiving altogether, choose a country that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving or where it takes place on a different date, such as Canada. If you don't want to travel alone, join a tour for single travelers.

Write Letters

Take the day to write letters or emails to family and friends. Connect with people whom you might not normally contact, and plan for possibly reconnecting and not being alone on Thanksgiving next year.

You could even try writing a letter to yourself. Plan on opening it next year to see what you were thinking and feeling, and observe what changes you have made and how things have improved. 

Become a Sports Fan

Thanksgiving is a perfect day to become a sports fan. Spend the day watching football games, learning the rules of the sport, and choosing a favorite team. Having a little knowledge of sports can also be helpful when making small talk. Next year you might find yourself hosting a Thanksgiving football gathering instead of being alone on Thanksgiving.

Be Productive

Make it a productive day and get your house organized. Clean out closets, get the paperwork in order, make to-do lists, and generally get control of the little details in your life. You will end the day with a feeling of accomplishment, and the ability to focus on your relationships with others because your life is manageable.

Get Outdoors

Depending on your climate, Thanksgiving day can be a marvelous time to head outdoors for a nature walk or hike. A 2017 study published in PLoS ONE showed that an outdoor activity such as hiking results in a more positive and less negative emotional state compared to just sitting or even compared to walking on a treadmill indoors. 

You might even cross paths with other nature lovers who are alone on Thanksgiving. If you don't like the idea of walking alone and are an animal lover, plan to adopt a dog to accompany you next year.

Aside from providing fresh air and sunshine, getting outdoors can help boost your mood during these challenging times. Look for parks or hiking options in your area, or simply plan a short walk through the neighborhood.

People Watch

If you can't be in the company of others, you can at least get out and be among people. Although most businesses will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, you are likely to find restaurants and coffee shops that are open.

Choose a spot where you can sit and watch people come and go. If you feel self-conscious sitting alone, bring along a newspaper to read or a laptop to check emails or surf the Internet.

Find Companions

Even if you are alone on Thanksgiving, that doesn't mean you can't reach out to others. The best way to do this is often to put others' needs ahead of your own. Who else might be lonely this time of year? Who else is wishing that they had a companion? When you can answer those questions, you will have found a way to ease your own loneliness.


Volunteering to help those less fortunate during the holidays will make you feel good and also help minimize feelings of being alone on Thanksgiving. If you don't want to go the traditional route of helping out in a soup kitchen or with a food drive, there are still lots of opportunities to donate your time.

Perhaps your local animal shelter needs help taking dogs out for walks or a senior's residence would like visitors for their guests who are also alone on Thanksgiving. Volunteering is an excellent way to be thankful for what you have and to realize that your situation could be worse. 

Get in Touch With Others Who Are Alone

Thanksgiving does not have to be spent with family. If you know of coworkers or acquaintances who are going to be alone on Thanksgiving, ask if they would like to spend the holiday together.

Start your own holiday tradition and plan a Thanksgiving gathering to create new friendships. Play card games to stimulate conversation and get to know each other better.

Plan for the Future

Perhaps you turned down invitations to dinner this year because of your anxiety. Make a promise to yourself that next year will be different. A year is plenty of time to get control of your anxiety and reconnect with people in your life.

If all else fails and you still find yourself lonely on Thanksgiving, simply try to make it through the day. Remember that it is only one day out of the year and that it will be over before you know it. Make a vow to yourself to get help for your anxiety so that it doesn't interfere with making plans for next Thanksgiving.

A Word From Verywell

If severe social anxiety is preventing you from connecting with others at Thanksgiving or other times of the year, it is best to make an appointment with your doctor. SAD is a highly treatable disorder with good success rates for both therapy and medication.

If you or a loved one are struggling with social anxiety disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

1 Source
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Niedermeier M, Einwanger J, Hartl A, Kopp M. Affective responses in mountain hiking-A randomized crossover trial focusing on differences between indoor and outdoor activity. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(5):e0177719. 

Additional Reading

By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."