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.
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.
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.
A Primer in Positive Psychology, by Christopher Peterson, Ph.D.