The holidays are here, and that means so many good things are in store: Cookie exchanges and Christmas movies, tree-trimmings and holiday parties, gift-wrapping extravaganzas and an excuse to pull out our favorite festive wear.

In this season, there will always be more to do — more cards to write, more gifts to buy, more parties to attend, more people to see. But what if this year we opt for a little less, not in an attempt to sacrifice the richness of this season but rather in hopes of giving our loved ones the gift of presence?

What if we strove to connect more intentionally with one another by saying no to invitations, taking a break from social media, and really living in the moment? Though we may have less on our calendars this holiday season, we may find that we end up with so much more joy.

1. Just say no.

There are so many wonderful things to do during the season, including (but certainly not limited to!) office parties, family events, weekend trips, and festive activities with friends. If we lived in a perfect world, we could say yes to everything and truly enjoy it all. But since we are imperfect creatures, we run the risk of draining ourselves of holiday joy and spirit by constantly saying yes to each and every invitation.

For some of us, extroverts especially, it can be so difficult to say no. This season makes saying no even harder, because most events during the holidays tend to be so much fun. But by packing our schedules to the brim, we don’t leave time for rest and restoration, and we end up charging into Christmas Day all burned out and exhausted.

We don’t leave space to spend good quality time with our loved ones when the holidays actually roll around because we’ve spent all our energy on the events leading up to the big day. So instead of running ourselves ragged, let’s simply say no. Of course, there are commitments that we have to keep, like to our bosses and our families, but there are others to which we can say no, the ones that aren’t totally crucial or don’t bring us tons of joy. And don’t over explain why you can’t attend an event — it may make you feel better to share your excuse, but it probably won’t comfort your hostess. A simple no will certainly suffice.

2. Take a break from Instagram.

We know that devices are such a blessing and a curse, as they provide us with plenty of connectivity but also so much distraction.

We would never say that devices should be locked up during the holiday season, especially since so many are equipped with cameras that are crucial for documenting memories, but we would like to suggest that we take a break from social media while spending time with loved ones, especially out-of-town guests that we might not get to see often (perhaps even only at the holidays). Take your photos but hold off on posting them until later when you’re winding down at home alone. Don’t waste precious time with people you love by choosing the perfect filter or posting the wittiest update. Resist the temptation to scroll through your feeds while spending time with family or friends, even if the conversation turns to a lull.

 Don’t waste precious time with people you love by choosing the perfect filter or posting the wittiest update.

Research shows that just having a device nearby (whether or not it’s in use) can reduce the depth to which people feel that they are connecting with one another, so if you can, leave your phone out of reach and enjoy some real face time with the special people in your lives.

3 Ways to Add Presence to Your Holiday Celebrations | DARLING | Photo by Madison Holmlund

3. Live in the moment.

We know that the holidays aren’t always so rosy for everyone. For many people, the holiday season is a reminder of loss or pain; it is a time when we have to be with family members who drive us crazy or who hurt our feelings every time we see them. But we have a choice to make as the holidays approach, whether this season represents joy or sorrow: We can choose to live in the moment and practice gratitude for the little things.

We can take the time to slow down and really soak in the things that are going right in our lives, as big (like an engagement or a new baby) or as small (like the a comforting sweater or a piping hot cup of coffee) as they may be. Finding ways to be grateful and present will help boost our moods, regardless of our circumstance, and we’ll find that we will be more willing to connect with those around us, even those people that are tough to spend time with. By submersing ourselves into a mindset of gratitude, we can find peace even during rough, crazy, busy times.

How do you like to give presence and purpose to the holiday season?

Images via Madison Holmlund



  1. A great mindset entering a time when many of us will have the opportunity to see those whom we love, but cannot see often. Thanks!

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