Use the Holidays to Savor and Reflect

social connection well-being Dec 20, 2022


In theory, online shopping and meal preparation & delivery services should make the holidays less hectic and more manageable. For most people I know though, these time saving advances haven’t seemed to deliver on their promises. People find a way to fill the time in other ways and feel just as busy as ever. Busyness makes true connection and self-reflection more difficult.


 As we age, time with family plummets and time alone and with a partner spikes (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Time Use Survey via


Savor the Holidays


As hard as it may be, try to slow down and savor the time with family and friends. Life stages bring different opportunities and challenges for connection. It’s easy to forget how front-ended loaded time with family is. The time raising kids is intense but things change. In fact, for example, time spent with children peaks in your 30s and flatlines in your 60s. Said differently, Tim Urban estimates that by the time you graduate high school, you will have already spent 93% of the total time you spend with your parents. You are already in the “tail end” of time spend with your parents.

Moments together with family and friends are more precious and rarer than we may initially realize.


Put the Devices Away and Be Present


Being around family and friends is not enough: we need to be present. An important step in creating opportunities for connection is to reduce the incessant distraction of technology and devices. This may mean turning phones off or enabling the Do Not Disturb function. It may even be more effective to put everyone’s phones away together. Recently, in watching a holiday movie together, each member of our family (including three teens!) placed his/her phone in a closed Tupperware. Temptations to check phones were averted and everyone could be present to enjoy Chevy Chase’s humor and misadventures.

The importance of creating boundaries is not just an opportunity for teenagers. In some cases, technology can be a bigger distraction for older people. The Washington Post recently surveyed more than 100 GenXers about their parents’ phone habits. Around half of respondents felt their parents are on their phones too much and are challenged to be present. During the holidays, it may be valuable to set ground rules for the use of technology for the whole family.

Instead of being tethered to do our devices, we are best to jump in and do activities together. Research shows that sharing an experience helps us bond with others.  Rather than just making small talk, jump in and help with the cooking, play a board fame or take a family walk.


Reach Out and Touch Someone


While many of us think about family gatherings during the holidays, loneliness is not uncommon during these times, too. Use this time to reach out to people who may be more isolated. If you feel lonely, reach out to others. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. This creates an opportunity for others to respond and you may be lifted by the loving response from others. You may not be as alone as you initially feel.

According to a recent study, casually reaching out to friends and acquaintances — through a quick text or email —means more to those people than we tend to realize. It is particularly powerful when the contact is unexpected. Reaching out may lead to an overdue phone or zoom conversation in the year ahead.


 Cooking in others' kitchens may inspire changes to your kitchen (Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash)


Reflect During the Holidays, Including About Place

Take advantage of the time to reflect on your life. By eliminating distractions, connecting with friends and family and taking a moment for yourself, you may find that it is easier to see what’s most important to you and whether your current life aligns with those values.

Holidays also offer an opportunity to observe family and friends more closely and provide opportunities to be helpful. Your sibling may be a in challenging life chapter and encouraging words now and into the new year may have outsized impact. You may sense changes with your parents that they may not see clearly. Insights over the holidays may create the avenues for important follow up in the new year.

Particularly if you travel during the holidays, this time of year can also be an opportunity to think about where you live and how you engage with your community. You can learn about other people’s living situations, including the impact of climate change and politics, and see if other places may be more desirable than your current home. Or, you may pick up ideas on how to make your current place better for you. Observing the variety of lifestyles around you may reinforce that fact that there is no such thing as the perfect place but it may open your mind up to better living ideas.


Setting the Table for Change Heading into 2023


No harm in enjoying Christmas cookies, unwrapping gifts and watching football games. However, by savoring and reflecting during the holidays, you have the prospect of making the most of the moments with those around you while also clarifying what matters most to you. It may motivate you to make changes for the better in 2023.






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