Why You Should Unplug This Thanksgiving

Please don’t post pics of your turkey dinner. Don’t Instagram your far-flung family with photos of your goings-on while ignoring your present company. Do not tweet, hashtag or snap. For a few days, or at least on Thanksgiving Day, unplug. An App cannot enhance or replace the connection of face-to-face human interaction.

Giving your full attention and sharing your time with family and friends is important. Give them the gift of being fully present for the holiday. If you have friends or family who cannot be with you, you can see them later or reach out with a phone call. The warmth of your voice far exceeds a series of emojis as a way of expressing your gratitude for their presence in your life.

Although we can read story after story about the overuse of smart phones, one remarkable piece by Jean Twenge says it all. To avoid dwelling on the downsides of screen time, simply know this: “Interacting with people face to face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows.”

Thanksgiving may be the perfect opportunity for what my co-author Bill Stixrud and I dub radical digital downtime—the deliberate disengagement from all things digital. Go for a walk. Take the dog for a walk. Play cards or board games. Eat some pie, mindfully if you can. Make and enjoy a fire. Practice seasonal carols; turn on holiday music. Meditate. Take a nap. Collectively wash dishes. Enjoy more pie.

Settle on a family agreement about when to turn off and stow away all things that beep, buzz, or light-up, at least for the short duration of your family get-together. You, your family, or guests have likely battled hours of traffic, shopping, and preparation to spend time together. Give the gift of your full attention and relish the opportunity to be fully present. Online shopping can wait. After all, what is a slow Monday at work for? Radical digital downtime is good for your body and mind. It is great behavior to model to your friends, your children and grandchildren. And, it is the easiest way to fully engage with the people you are so thankful to have in your lives.

After all, it’s all about having a Happy Thanksgiving!