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The News Not Noise Letter: Thanksgiving Survival Guide
Happy Thanksgiving! Here are our Thanksgiving survival tips and conversation starters for a drama-free holiday.
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The holidays are coming not a moment too soon. We could all use a break from 2023 and the news. We know Thanksgiving can be a time for gratitude, but also family stress. So we’ve compiled advice from experts on how to actually have a happy Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Survival Tips:
Thanksgiving can be a wonderful time for reconnecting, sharing gratitude and unwinding. But also, a time for family conflict. Here’s advice for minimizing holiday stress and setting yourself – and your family – up for the best possible experience.
Family Time Is Nourishing: Family holidays can be stressful. And yet, research shows that eating together brings down stress, increases feelings of connection and promotes healthier eating habits. Stanford Children’s Health offers these tips for a productive meal: let children choose their own seats; when possible serve everyone at the same time (no early meal for the kids) to ensure no one is isolated; ask questions that make dinner engaging for everyone. More tips here.
Setting the Table for Happiness: You’ve gotta preserve your sanity in order to protect others’. Dr. Samantha Boardman is my favorite resource for mental health advice. In her newsletter The Dose she recommends:
Set aside differences at the Thanksgiving meal and focus on what you have in common with others.
Ditch your cell phone at the table.
Take a 15 minute walk if you feel anxious or overwhelmed.
Deeper one-on-one conversations are more satisfying than small talk. (See below for some conversation starters.)
Keeping the Blues at Bay: If you’re actually feeling down, you’re not alone. Experts say, consider limiting alcohol intake – it’s the #1 driver of the holiday blues. Get plenty of sleep. And set and then stick to your budget so you feel financially secure.
Protecting Others’ Mental Health: Pop quiz: is it a good idea or a bad idea to ask your single cousin why he’s never gotten married? Or your niece and her partner whether they ever plan to have kids? The Washington Post spoke with experts who caution you to steer clear of these and other flashpoint topics. The Dinner Table Project (a great org) has a list of safe and engaging conversation starters here.
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Fact Checking Uncle Fred: And now, a contradiction. The sources above advise against talking politics at the dinner table. But for many #NNNers, that’s hard. So if you feel the need to engage with that one uncle who still thinks the election was stolen, here are tested guidelines for debunking misinformation. First, establish an emotional bond (“Uncle Fred you taught me to ride a bike and I adore you for it”); then frame the discussion as if you and Uncle Fred are teaming up against disinformation; ask him questions rather than dispute his facts; and remember to walk away or change topics when things become too confrontational. Keep in mind you rarely change someone’s mind in just one conversation.
If That Fails: It can be deflating to disagree with family. Dr. Samantha Boardman offers strategies to deal with “persuasion fatigue,” which sets in when “no matter how much logic we deploy, how many facts we cite, or how many examples we use, our audience doesn't budge.” She says once you start feeling that: aim for smaller areas of agreement and reframe with the other person's values. “Wrapping your message in terms of their values is far more persuasive than trying to bang them over the head with your morality,” says Boardman.
Changing the Conversation: One thing we’ve learned from politics: it’s always easier to distract than to solve. Here are a few suggestions to change the topic when things get heated:
AI: Fast or Slow? It’s been a whirlwind week for OpenAI cofounder and CEO Sam Altman. In the last few days the company has gone through three different CEOs and the majority of employees threatened to walk. Now Altman’s back at the helm with a new board that includes no women. (Because that’s exactly what AI needs… fewer women.) This chaos is emblematic of a larger debate: how fast should AI developers work? Those who believe AI developed too fast could endanger humanity advocate for slow, careful advances. Others argue for the importance of releasing products as quickly as possible to meet market pressures and to “get there first.” If you could invent an AI to solve one headache in your life, what would that be?
New Jersey’s Newest Political Power Couple? New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy announced she’s running for Senate, challenging indicted incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez. Murphy is married to NJ Gov. Phil Murphy, who took office in 2018. She has taken an active policy role in his administration, though she does not draw a salary. If elected, Murphy would be New Jersey’s first female Senator and first Senator married to the sitting Governor. (Recall Menendez is indicted on corruption charges for allegedly taking bribes from Egypt including “gold bars, cash, and a luxury convertible.”) Would you vote for this power couple?
Neutering the Cocaine Hippos: Colombia is beginning a campaign to sterilize roughly 170 “cocaine hippos.” Yes, you read that right. These are the descendents of four hippopotamuses that belonged to cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. Escobar brought the hippos to his estate in the 1980s and when he was killed in 1993, the hippos took to the wilds of Colombia and thrived. Officials in Colombia estimate that without intervention, there could be as many as 1,000 hippos in Colombia by 2050, which would have a devastating impact on the local environment. Hungry hungry hippos could out-compete native mammals like manatees and capybaras, and their huge quantities of waste can lead to algae blooms that sicken or kill other aquatic life. But sterilizations are tricky, costing around $10,000 each and risking the safety of the hippos and the medical teams operating on them. They’re called cocaine hippos in homage to their one-time landlord, Pablo Escobar. They don’t snort cocaine (that we know of). What would you do if you encountered a hippo on cocaine?
That’s a Pricey Hat: How much is too much to pay for a piece of headgear? We tip our cap to the connoisseur who paid $2.1 million for Napoleon Bonaparte’s bicorne hat at an auction in Fontainebleau, France. This is not the strangest Napoleon artifact held in a private collection. One family reportedly owns… his privates. What’s your most surprising collectible?
And Something to Help Others (And Yourself):
Acts of Service are Healing: A little holiday community service could be the right medicine. This list can connect you to volunteer opportunities with Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, and even ways to clean up the local park.
Finally, Here’s Something to Make You Smile:
Ready for winter weather:
Not high maintenance, just particular:
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