Your family might not get to see each other very often. Christmas means large extended family gatherings, hours of cooking and a group of people who don’t typically interact in person – and when the holiday ends, many will lament that they don’t get to spend enough tie with each other.
But during the holiday itself, these same lamenters will spend a lot of time ignoring the people around them and distractedly staring into their phones. They will get a notification and disappear down a digital rabbit hole of Facebook posts, text messages and updates. They will monitor the comments on the photos they just posted, instead of engaging with the human beings in those photos. Many of us have a complicated relationship with our phones. We enjoy them in the moment. Yet when we reflect on all the time we spend looking at a tiny screen, we feel terrible about it. We pine for a less addictive relationship with the online world.
So let us make a suggestion for this Christmas: Turn off your phone, and keep it off for a full 24 hours. We predict you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll like it.
About a month ago, we had a full day without internet due to power outage. I was sure I wouldn’t like it, but it was wonderful. I got things done, without distraction. I never had to ask, guiltily, “Sorry, what’d you say?” because I had been only semi-listening. I spent time thinking about long-term projects instead of replying to unimportant emails. It felt productive, rejuvenating and, yes, fun.
On a day without screens, you reportedly laugh more, sleeps better and feels healthier.
Having one day off each week shocks you anew into the realization of how bizarre it is that everyone is head-down, looking at screens all the time. That should never feel normal. There are certainly parts that you will find uncomfortable. Making a last-minute plan is tricky, and looking up the answer to an intriguing question is nearly impossible. That’s part of the point, though — to slow down and stop obsessing about the immediate. Many people come up with their freshest ideas when they’re not occupied.
You can also minimize the downsides with a little advance planning. Print out your family’s schedule, as well as anything you need for a looming work project. Print out directions. Part of an advance plan is telling friends and colleagues that you’re unplugging for 24 hours. They will probably respect you for it. Some people don’t check her emails on Sundays. Folk know to reach them on their phone if an urgent problem comes up. Most problems, of course, are not urgent.
This approach will be harder for teenagers, who have grown up with texting. But they may need a break more than anyone.
Perhaps most important, make sure that your 24 tech-free time includes a big dose of joy. You might start by eating a great Friday dinner with friends, or going to a favourite restaurant for a meal with family. The beauty of turning off your phone this Christmas is that there are so many joyful alternatives. Cook a recipe you don’t usually have time for, take a long walk, go swimming, or simply enjoy catching up with friends and family over endless cups of tea, which is so much easier when you aren’t staring into a screen. Be mindful, joyful, and enjoy it all.