Thanksgiving can be a tricky holiday to navigate. Whether you’re celebrating with family or friends, there is a lot of pressure to be happy, united, and positive. When there are expectations to be connecting with people you may only see once or twice a year, your phone may actually be making the holiday season more difficult. Being mindful and aware of your digital wellness will take some pressure off.
Mindfulness is the basic ability to be fully present in a moment, without being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you. Although the concept seems simple, technology acts as a barrier to reach a completely mindful state. Around the holidays, it’s important to practice living in the moment without the distractions of technology. There are plenty of little tips and tricks to achieve mindfulness on your own and there are also methods of including everyone into your mindful experience.
Digital wellness is having a healthy relationship with your technology: using it when it’s useful and putting it down at moments where it isn’t. Understanding when it’s appropriate and productive to be on your devices is the first step. Thanksgiving can be a great opportunity to take a digital break or detox.
Here are some ways for parents, kids, and friends to practice mindfulness and digital wellness on Thanksgiving.
An easy way to become more mindful as well as improving your relationship with technology is taking the time to cut it out. A no phone zone on Thanksgiving could be the answer to better communication. It can be a physical room or a few hours you set aside.
For Parents: Tackling a technology detox on Thanksgiving can be challenging. As a parent, you don’t want your kids to feel punished and, in turn, lash out. It’s important to enforce digital boundaries and mindfulness without becoming too overbearing. Pressuring your children at any age could actually lead them deeper into their devices. Luckily you have the wonderful excuse of a family holiday to bring your kids back to earth and off their phones. Making it easy for them will ultimately make it easier for you. Instead of making the lack of technology feel like a personal attack, try to turn it into something that the whole family partakes in. If no one can use their phones for the duration of dinner they won’t feel singled out. Set up a period of time, or a designated room as a tech-free zone.
For Kids: Although this may seem like a horrifying prospect to the younger generation, embrace being away from your phone. In a study done by Dr. Jean Twenge, author of iGen, it was found that kids who used social media daily were 13% more likely to report high levels of depressive symptoms than those who used social less frequently. It may feel like you’re missing a limb for the first five minutes but an opportunity to spend some time away from your phone is actually saving yourself from heightened anxiety and attention deficit. Embrace the no phone zone!
For Friendsgiving: Most friends will be on board with cutting out devices. Many friends will make this a rule at any dinner because as much as we rely on them, there’s really nothing like having someone’s undivided attention. This is good news when it comes to Friendsgiving. Make it a no phone zone by dropping your phones in a box or in another room upon arrival. Cutting out all phones will make it easy to forget you don’t have yours.
If you’re cutting out the technology on Thanksgiving in an effort to be more present, creating alternative entertainment is very important.
For Parents: A great alternative to sitting inside and watching a screen is getting your kids outside! Organize a sports game or a scavenger hunt before dinner. This will guarantee your kids are busy as well as interacting without their devices. Another way to connect and spend quality time with your children is to have your kids help out in the kitchen. It can be something as small as topping the sweet potato with marshmallows. Anything that keeps their hand’s busy means they won’t be as tempted to getting stuck in a video game or text message thread.
For Kids: As a teenager or young adult, you should take some time to educate yourself about the consequences of too much phone use. More realistically than expecting teenagers to support their parent’s claims of the phone being the devil, openness to one day of alternative activities isn’t the end of the world. Be a willing participant. A positive attitude will ensure that you have a better time.
For Friendsgiving: Playing card games or board games among friends is a great way to be sure everyone is off their phones. Board games can positively affect your health in a real way as well, scientifically proven to enhance brain function, relieve stress, and release positive endorphins. This is a nostalgic and fun way to get everybody interacting.
Because technology is an unavoidable part of our lives it’s okay to incorporate a little of it into your Thanksgiving plans. Having a bit of phone time may actually help with spending longer spans of time without it.
For Parents: Adopting methods of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), normally used for physical training, you can use this method when it comes to curbing excessive use of technology. Sounds intense but it’s straightforward and effective. In an exercise, HIIT is when you exude your body 100 percent for a short spurt of time followed by an active recovery period and then another 100 percent push followed by another active recovery, repeated as many times as you like. When applied to children and the use of electronics allowing your child 15 minutes on the phone and then 30 minutes to an hour totally off the phone they will “perform” without it better, as they know there will be a reward at the end of the hour. Before guests and family arrive allow your children some time with their phones or a video game, making sure they know that they’ll have to give their full attention following it.
For Friends, Parents, and Kids: Using apps to make the cooking process simpler and more manageable is a great way to productively use technology. This incorporation works for families and friends alike. Especially if you have a lot of people in the kitchen your phone may actually simplify the process. There are recipe apps and food delivery apps that will ultimately make the experience more enjoyable. A couple of examples are Instacart, Postmates, and Din. By interacting with your phone productively it will be easier to put it down when you sit down to eat. FaceTime and Skype are also useful and positive digital resources to use around the holidays. Sitting staring blankly at the television is not productive but taking the time to connect with friends or relatives who cannot be with you to celebrate is a positive way to use technology. Especially when there are people you wish you could see, getting some (video) face-time with them can really make the day better.
So now that you’re good and disconnected, you’re “faced” with some face-to-face communication. When you get a big group together there’s bound to be some clashing personalities. This is actually an inherent part of thanksgiving. Every other Thanksgiving meme or viral video has something to do with a family conflict. So as tempting as it may be to record a family brawl and post it on the internet, let’s try getting along. Mindfulness is key.
For Parents: You are setting an example at the dinner table. No matter how much you and your mother-in-law disagree, it’s your job to deflect conflict and avoid clashing personalities. Setting this example in front of your kids will show them that this is a time of positivity and gratefulness. Showing tolerance will rub off on them making the whole experience more positive.
For Kids: Thanksgiving can be hard on kids and young adults. You’re bombarded with questions about school, work, or your relationship status and your parents expect you to be on your best behavior around extended family. Being mindful in moments like this can actually work to your advantage and make Thanksgiving a much more pleasant experience. Being fully aware of yourself and the situation around you will allow you to respond more calmly and efficiently in order to avoid misunderstanding or frustration. Try celebrating your family’s differences rather than getting defensive.
For Parents, Kids, and Friends: Deflecting conflict and bringing up something that everyone can agree with is a useful method in diffusing uncomfortable table discussions. Amidst a heated political debate I find complimenting a flower arrangement or how cute your three-year-old cousin has gotten, lights up the situation.
Thanksgiving comes with its complications but ultimately there is a way to make sure you have a positive holiday. Being aware of your screen time and digital wellness will assist in becoming more mindful. Living in the moment is shockingly easier said than done so making the extra effort around the holidays will enrich the whole experience and ultimately create amazing memories. Whether you’re a parent hosting, a kid attending or a friend at friends-giving you can be mindful and productively disconnected this holiday season.
Written by Delfina Forstmann