It’s the holiday season again, and a time when we think about what really matters for our happiness and well-being. Taking time out from working and shopping and spending it with people we care about is the best thing we can do during the holiday season. Remember to “Give the gift of time!” That’s our motto for the season!
Don’t forget to get outdoors for the health of it – as the outdoor equipment company REI reminded everyone when they closed on Black Friday to give their employees the day off (with pay)! And take that vacation you’ve been thinking about for so long!
If for no other reason, do it for your children. American children are among the most stressed out in the rich world, according to data from UNICEF and the OECD (the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
Back in 1969, as a Peace Corps trainee, I taught English at a Navajo Indian boarding school in New Mexico. We lived with the students in dormitories. They came from throughout the giant reservation and spoke no English at all when they arrived at school. I asked them to teach me Navajo while I was teaching them English. But I learned more than Navajo from them.
I learned how little it takes to be happy, and how too much stuff can actually be a barrier to well-being.
They came from a culture where children were honored with time and the chance to play, and frequent community celebrations where they could connect with others. At ten, they appeared to be among the happiest and best-adjusted children I’d ever seen.
By contrast, when I returned home for Christmas that year, my own nine-year old brother and his friends opened mountains of presents, scattering the paper all over the floor. Their bedrooms reminded me of a Toys ‘R Us store. But a couple days after Christmas, the toys were all off in a corner and the boys complained that they had “nothing to do.”
So give the gift of time, and give the gift of play.
Take time this season for conversation, for a walk in the park or snow, to tell someone how much they matter to you, to have real heart-to-heart talks, to write a poem for a friend, paint a picture or sing a song. Take a ride on a ferry or a Ferris wheel. Enjoy a long, slow dinner by candlelight. If you do give a physical present, make it something you’ve thought about that can truly enrich the life of the recipient.
One of the speakers at the 2015 Vacation Commitment Summit in New York City pointed out “Don’t take a vacation for yourself. Take it for the people you love.” In other words, taking time for vacation and leisure with family and friends is the opposite of being selfish. It is not just good for you – it is good for your loved ones.
So this holiday season, don’t forget to give the gift of time. And start doing it now because there’s no present like the time!