What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the holidays? For me, it’s the 3 F’s: family, friends, and food. But I have to admit, even though I love seeing them, reuniting with family and friends that I haven’t seen in a while can cause a fair bit of anxiety. Maybe we don’t have as much in common anymore, or what if I bring up a topic of conversation that’s taboo? Whatever the case, I find that instead of dealing with uncomfortable situations head-on, I often revert to shutting myself out or letting my mind wander. While totally natural, let’s face it, this isn’t the healthiest way to build a relationship. This year, powered with my own introspection guiding me, I’m committed to being more present over the holidays. Here are the 5 ways that I plan to focus my energy and build better relationships with friends and family from Thanksgiving to New Years.

1. Power down
Like many of you reading this, I love my phone, but I am aware that it creates a barrier when around other people. If you’re looking at your phone, it’s near impossible to give someone else your full attention. That’s why this year I vow to put my phone away during dinner and social interactions over the holidays.

UpHabit friends holidays2. Listen without thinking of a response
One of our biggest obstacles to building strong relationships is how we listen when communicating. Research suggests that only about 10% of people listen effectively. Next time you’re having a discussion with someone, try to think: are you listening to everything they say with the intention of understanding, or are you building a response while they’re still speaking? My goal for this holiday season is to be more mindful and try to catch myself when my mind wanders or if I find myself formulating a reply.

3. Be engaging & ask questions
One of the easiest ways to show someone that you’re interested in what they have to say is to be engaging and ask good open-ended questions. Not only does this represent to the person you’re speaking with that you care about what they have to say, but you’re also tricking your brain to pay close attention to the speaker. How so? By asking an engaging question, you become more invested in the conversation and thus create an environment where you will be more focused. I think they call that a win/win.

4. Be helpful!
Need a mental detox and don’t have your phone around (thanks to point 1)? The holidays provide no shortage of opportunities to lend a hand. This season, if you’re lucky enough to be invited to a holiday party or meal, show an extra bit of gratitude by rolling up your sleeves and helping with the dishes or cleaning up. This small act of kindness shows your host that you appreciate their hard work and is a non-verbal way to give thanks. Great for when you’re looking to be more mindful of those around you, but need a break for the social scene.

5.Savor & enjoy your food
Being present doesn’t only need to apply directly to the people around you. This year, I’m going to make extra effort to savor my meal and appreciate all of the ingredients and work that went into making it happen. Any kitchen master will tell you that preparing a holiday meal is no small task. Take the time to note the interesting flavors you’re experiencing and how they make you feel. You might just find yourself being extra thankful for each bite you take.

Looking to build better relationships with the people you care about over the holidays? Try using UpHabit to keep in better touch with family and friends throughout the year.