Instant Gratification: This Thanksgiving Don’t Have the P.I.G.

by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.

staying sober thanksgivingThansgiving and the Problem of Instant Gratification

Somehow Thanksgiving, our holiday of gratitude, has morphed into a gluttonous melee of over-indulgence and excess.  If there is ever a time to practice coping with urges, resisting temptations, and moderate indulging, it is amidst the relentless onslaught of food and drink offerings that we are bombarded with throughout the celebratory festivities of November’s final Thursday.

The P.I.G., or Problem of Instant Gratification, is a hallmark of the feverish consumer culture that abounds today.  As if the multitudinous dishes of the Thanksgiving meal weren’t enough, now we have trample-happy shopping sprees to add to the frenzied fervor of our most indulgent holiday.  One-click buying, drive-through “dining,” over-night shipping, instant gifting, as the Willy-Wonka song astutely foreshadowed, we all “want it now.”

The problem with the P.I.G. is that immediate gratification often has greater influence on us than healthier, delayed rewards.  Repeating the pattern of instant gratification reinforces the P.I.G., and every time we give into an urge or get what we want now, the P.I.G. grows.  Defeating the P.I.G. all starts with stopping.

If we don’t give into urges, they become less intense and occur less frequently.  Some call the process of defeating the P.I.G. the Principle of Benign Deprivation.  With a cornucopia of indulgences before you this Thanksgiving, select a few to intentionally deprive yourself of in order to shrink the P.I.G.

While intentionally resisting urges shrinks the P.I.G., the sheer abundance of Thanksgiving also serves as a tangible reminder of all that we have in our lives.  Take a moment to pause and appreciate the incredible fortune in your life concretely symbolized by the turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, fresh rolls, casserole, pumpkin pie, and anything else you have the opportunity to enjoy.  Using the Thanksgiving meal as a catalyst for cultivating a deep sense of gratitude and reverence for the many fortunes in your life may even make interactions with that particularly difficult loved one a little more enjoyable.