{via pinterest; originally from here}

I lived alone for several years in my early 20s, and I often felt very alone, especially when it came to dinnertime. I loved the solitude, space, peace and quiet. But I just felt lonely.

I’d eat my meals in front of the TV and spent very little time preparing wholesome foods. I’d throw a few things together and then continue to eat odd foods like crackers with jelly throughout the night.

I felt disconnected from myself and from my body. I felt empty, and used simple carbs to fill the void.

Sometimes you don’t have to be alone to feel disconnected. You can feel lonely when you’re with your loved ones, especially if everyone is distracted, glued to the TV or doing their own thing. So even though dinner is a time to connect with family or friends or to unwind and mindfully enjoy your meal, the reality may be anything but.

Authors Jeffrey Brantley, M.D, and Wendy Millstine, NC, share a valuable tip for “nourishing your hunger for connection” in their book, True Belonging: Mindful Practices to Help You Overcome Loneliness, Connect with Others & Cultivate Happiness.

Their tip? It’s all about gratitude. I know that initially this might seem trivial or even hokey. But I think it can be very helpful.

They write, “If you hunger for connection, simply acknowledging what you’re thankful for can help you reconnect with yourself and others.” And you can do this at any point in your cooking or eating process. They explain:

You can say a prayer of gratitude while you’re chopping vegetables or standing over a hot stove with your kids screaming or music blaring in the background. You can write something that expresses your inner feelings of what you’re happy for and then recite it at every meal by yourself. You can speak your gratitude aloud randomly and spontaneously each time you  place an item on the table as you prepare for a meal.

Brantley and Millstine also offer suggestions about the statements you can say (which I’ve included below). But ultimately, they recommend  that it be “anything your heart and imagination wish to notice.” (Don’t you just love that!)

  • “I am so happy that I can enjoy this meal with my wonderful partner.”
  • “I am so happy that my cat can join me for this meal today.”
  • “I am so happy with my new slow cooker that made this meal.”
  • “I am so happy that I have a dessert to look forward to after this meal.”
  • “I am so happy that I am able-bodied and can prepare this meal without help.”
  • “I am so happy to be fed, nourished and full.”

They conclude the chapter with: “Giving thanks unlocks your ability to feel connected and fulfilled by the simplest of things.” I couldn’t agree more.

How do you make mealtime special? What are you grateful for? What are some of your favorite dinner dishes?