After spending a lot of time over the past few months conducting research with people across the country and then speaking with my own friends and family about various aspects of the holidays, I’ve noticed an interesting theme. Humans are conflicted about gift giving and what that means these days.
A time to give
As soon as the holiday season sets in, the first thing that so many people are thinking about is the gifts that they have to buy so that they can spread joy and make others happy. Meanwhile, research shows us that while giving feels good, having more ‘stuff’ doesn’t actually make us happy! Further, when we ask people about their holiday aspirations, as the chaotic season makes us even busier, so many people simply wish for ‘more quality time’ with family and friends.
The gift of time
While gifts are a demonstration of love or care for someone (as demonstrated in Rethink’s beautiful Ikea ad for of all things – bottles), time continues to be arguably one of the most precious commodities out there (yes even more so than Bitcoin). It’s kind of like the magic of waking up as a kid and hearing it’s a snow day – all the busy routines are put on pause, and the family just hangs out making snowmen and catching snowflakes on their tongues.
Multiple studies of kids and even teens over the years indicate that they acknowledge that quality time together with their families is what makes them happy (not the newest iPhone).
Even studies of people on the other end of the spectrum – the elderly or those about to die reveal a similar theme. In The Top Five Regrets of the Dying a palliative care nurse shared her insights gleaned asking patients who were about to pass and what they regretted in their lives. Number two on the list is “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”. Digging deeper, we see that this was linked to the regret that some folks had, having devoted a vast amount of time to work in their lives when it could have been more meaningfully spent cultivating relationships.
Experiences are more valuable than gifts
So, as I enjoyed last night playing a game of Catan by the fire with those closest to me, I reflected on this precious commodity of time, and how I can ‘spend it’ more wisely both professionally and personally. I’ve found this list for inspiration from Wellness Mama. It’s got a kid slant but has lots of great ideas on ways to spend quality time and share experiences with loved ones. It was well worth a moment of my time, and may be for you too.