3 Best Gifts of Presence (Not Presents)

As families gather and friends reunite this special time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the holiday buzz of gifts, Christmas movie marathons, and enjoying one too many glasses of mulled wine. I’ve been there: I fly home a few days before Christmas, and in a whirl of social catch-ups and a flurry of last-minute shopping and gift wrapping later, I find myself back on the plane with a massive credit card bill, 10 lbs of extra weight from one too many Christmas dinners, and the distinct feeling I didn’t get quite enough quality time with everyone I wanted.

When it comes to holiday gatherings (or any reunions for that matter), are we actually lacking the greatest gift of all – being genuinely and fully present with those we love?

I’m not telling you NOT to give gifts, especially if it’s meaningful and comes from a place of love. I’ve just come to realize how much of our limited time during the holidays is actually spent completely distracted.

Here’s a true story: one year our family went away to Utah for some hiking and skiing – the whole family including cousins, aunts, uncles, and even grandma was there! However, due to demands of my crazy start-up job and my own addiction to my phone, I spent the majority of the time working by myself on my laptop, texting friends, and mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. To this day, I regret not being more present in the moment and sharing more amazing memories with my family.

Instead of giving my family my full attention and presence, I’ve squandered a chance to deeply connect.

Here are the 3 simple things to do to stay more present this holiday season:

Presence Tip #1: Put Your Phone Away!


I know it seems deceptively simple, but when you meet your friends or family for a meal or a catch-up, put your phone on airplane mode. Do not put it on the table, put it away and out of sight (in another room or in your bag). Studies show that even the visual cue of seeing your phone could take your attention away from the present situation. By putting your phone away, you’re honoring your time with the other person and signaling that you value and prioritize the relationship.

Presence Tip #2: Actively Listen


Part of being present is to fully listen to the other person. This is something I struggle with. When I’m excited, I tend to blurt out everything on my mind, and don’t give pause to really listen to them. I make it a point to ask more questions about them, and try to listen to what they’re saying between the checklist of updates. Are they happy about something? Struggling with something? Where is there an opportunity to connect and be a good friend/daughter/sister?

Presence Tip #3: Live as Though Social Media Didn’t Exist


How many times have you heard this phrase, “picture, or it didn’t happen”? Our need to constantly document everything can be exhausting. How often has the flow of conversation and energy been interrupted because of an awkward photo, a need to craft the perfect caption, or checking our likes? When we’re spending time with our loved ones, let’s try a bold experiment – try NOT documenting! (Gasp!) It seems crazy, but once you remove the pressure of social media documentation, you’ll find yourself settling into a much more authentic and relaxed flow. It’s ok to let go!


I hope these mindful tips will help you connect more deeply with those you love this holiday season (and always!). Tell me, have you tried any of the above? Let me know below.



Sending lots of love and energy, and happy holidays!



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