The gift of time: why presence matters more than presents
You may not have as many friends as you had when you were younger, but I bet you cherish them more. Having good friends, who’ve probably known you for ages, and who’ve shared joy and sadness with you, is priceless. And as we age, there is an awareness that our time here is finite and, without wishing to be a downer, no one lives forever…
It can be hard to find the perfect present. So rather than give something for the sake of it, share the most precious thing you have, and give someone your time. We say ‘it’s the thought that counts’ about presents that don’t quite hit the spot. Well, what nicer thought is there than ‘Let’s spend time together’?
Suggest meeting up in the New Year for coffee, a walk, or a trip to the pub. What elevates it from the everyday is that you’re doing it with a friend, perhaps one you don’t see very often. Or it could be something a little more elaborate like seeing an exhibition, going wine-tasting, or doing a shoemaking course… anything that will appeal to both/all of you. And before the event itself, you both have something in the diary to look forward to.
Whatever you arrange doesn’t have to be perfect. As a good friend recently said to me on a long-planned day out as we hit a different pub to the one we’d planned to visit, after a good lunch, and an indifferent art installation: ‘I don’t really care where we are. What’s important is that we’re seeing each other.’
Obviously, it’s not just friends that it pays to spend time with. Many family members, particularly older ones, would love to see more of you, and being with someone who is obviously thrilled to see you, and knowing that you’ve made them happy, makes you feel good, too.
For my mum’s last (‘big’) birthday, I struggled with what to give her to mark the extra-special occasion. So I wanted to spoil her with something out of the ordinary. We often go for afternoon tea together, but to make it extra-special, we went for afternoon tea with alpacas, because my mum adores them. I gave her a homemade voucher on her birthday, and she was so thrilled. On the day the owners talked to us about the animals, then we got fed – delicious sandwiches, scones and cakes – in a beautiful garden overlooking the Weald of Kent, and then we fed the alpacas, and wandered about the field with them. My mum loved it, and I treasure the photos I took.
And it may be a cheesy social media hashtag but ‘making memories’ like that is a great thing to do. Several studies have shown that spending money on an experience, rather than buying a product, makes us happier. It doesn’t have to cost a lot; it’s about investing time rather than money.
Traditionally, this time of year can be a busy period. So, it pays to take a little time for yourself, to pause from your seasonal rituals and reflect on what has been and what may be. A US study reveals that when we’re feeling stressed and busy we’re least likely to treat ourselves, but, of course, that’s when we need it most. Self-gifting time is the best form of self-care. So be generous – it’s the season of goodwill to all, and that includes you.
Adrienne Wyper is a health and lifestyle writer and regular TNMA contributor.