What makes Christmas special? For many of us, it is an opportunity to gather with family, experience the magic of children excited about Santa and feel that sense of connection with the people near and dear to us.

In this digital age we all bring an unintended “plus one” to our Christmas day celebrations, in the shape of our digital device. This unintended guest, if not managed carefully, can be a bit of a scoundrel; interrupting conversations, monopolizing attention and even distracting you when you are trying to cook the Christmas dinner!

If so much of Christmas is about the magic of connection, that moment when your child sees the half eaten mince pie and connecting with your loved ones over a lovingly prepared meal, then what can we do to ensure that we keep those digital devices in check?

Below are some ideas to try this year. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; however, often we don’t notice the impact technology is having until we make changes. So be bold and experiment with some of these tips this year. Who knows, you may end up giving yourself and your family the extra gift of your attention…

Digital Christmas messages

Have you experienced the tension of trying to enjoy time with family and friends whilst feeling the need to reply to digital Christmas wishes? This is a growing trend as fewer than half of under 35’s send Christmas cards nowadays, sending digital messages instead. With the barrage of digital messages growing over the years, we not only have text messages to reply to but also Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram … ouch! Christmas day is alive with the sound of bings and bongs of notifications! Maximise your time for a relaxed and uninterrupted Christmas with a few changes to how you use your phone…

Tip 1 – This year, try turning off your notifications (yes… notice the anxiety at this idea!) and pick one block of time where you will send or reply to digital messages. That way you can rest easy without seeing messages you feel obliged to reply to instantly. You can be guilt-free, knowing that any wonderful greetings will be read and replied to, but at a time that doesn’t take you away from fully enjoying your day.

Tip 2 – If you don’t send Christmas cards then why not experiment going ‘old school’ and sending them this year? There will be less need to send messages on the day itself and you can buy cards which support charities or make your own. Making your own cards can be a great offline family activity with children.

Family mealtime

We can travel a long way to gather together at Christmas, yet then find digital distractions can get in the way of conversations and connection with the very people we’ve travelled far to see. It comes as no surprise that studies have shown mobile phones can impact our development of closeness with others.

Tip 3 – Once everyone has arrived, try making Christmas a digital-free zone. Gather the family’s phones in a bowl, removing any pesky temptations. You can give the phones back after the meal …. or maybe you can lay down a challenge that the first to take their phone back has to help with the washing up!?

Offline connection

The period after the Christmas meal can be a wonderful time to bond and enjoy time together. Sometimes we slip into digital habits and if one person pulls out their phone then others quickly follow.

Tip 4 – Plan an offline activity for after the Christmas meal which will make the most of your time together. Plan a walk to let that Christmas pudding digest or get a good board game out for the family to enjoy. There’s nothing like a cross-generational board game to spark laughter and fun!

Soak it all up

Our experience of Christmas and the memories we make are created by what we pay attention to in the day.

Tip 5 – Finally, set an intention this Christmas to really immerse yourself in, and soak up, the experience of the day. This day comes around just once a year and who knows what you will see if you are fully present … you might even catch a glimpse of Santa!