How to Do It
- Think of a person whom you care about.
- What might you be able to do for this person that entails nothing more than the giving of your time? Certain acts of kindness entail gifts of money or goods, but, in this exercise, time is of the essence, as it were.
- Plan a gift of time for this person and give it, whether it means doing something with them (in person or virtually) or something for them on your own. Spend as much time as needed to do the favor well and do not take any shortcuts. You might even consider taking off your watch or putting your smartphone away.
- If you did something for them on your own, do not tell the recipient of your gift how much time you spent. Let the gift speak for itself.
Why You Should Try It
When we’re busy, it’s easy to sacrifice quality time with others in favor of work and other obligations. But that can lead to regrets: We fall out of touch with friends, or miss out on our kids’ milestones. This exercise ensures that we allocate time for the important people in our lives.
In turn, taking time for social connection allows us to build up a store of positive experiences and supportive relationships that we can draw strength from in the future, potentially leading to better health and more success at work or helping us through hard times.
Plus, the gift of time is absolutely free—it's one that anyone can give.
Why It Works
Time is one of the most precious gifts we have to give, particularly in an age when technology seems to garner our constant attention. This exercise encourages us to think more carefully about how we spend our time.
Devoting time to others is a gesture of kindness and love that can not only make us feel good but also make others feel good and deepen our relationships. And because each social interaction is different, we have countless opportunities for new positive experiences.
Evidence That It Works
Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2013). Strength-based positive interventions: Further evidence for their potential in enhancing well-being and alleviating depression. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(4), 1241.
Participants were assigned to give three “gifts of time” by meeting up with three people they care about in the same week, above and beyond their normal activities. Compared to a group who journaled daily about their memories, they reported greater happiness one month later. The longer they continued the practice after the initial week, the greater their happiness boost.
A Primer in Positive Psychology, by Christopher Peterson, Ph.D.
Giving the Gift of Time can help nurture your relationships. How strong are your social connections? Take our Social Capital quiz to find out: