So often in life today we are going through the motions and checking items off our to do list- swinging by a friend’s house to pick something up that you’re borrowing, calling your sister just to ask her to send you a link to a recipe that you need, or only texting your spouse to see if they will pick up the kids after school later because you have another errand to run.
What if what we did wasn’t all transactional? What if, instead of every time we spoke to those we care about, it wasn’t just to get something in return, but rather to spend time together?
This weekend, my husband’s cousin came over for help with something. We quickly helped her and I expected her to leave right away after getting what she came for, but she didn’t. Instead, she stayed. She hung out with us in the kitchen while we prepared meals for the week. She wasn’t on her phone, she wasn’t looking for any more advice, she simply wanted to hang out and chat.
This gesture sounds simple on paper, but its result was far from benign. After that hour I felt closer to our cousin and happier in general. I spent a lot of time thinking why I was so taken aback by the fact that she spent an hour hanging out despite already receiving what she needed and I realized that it’s because of how rare that type of interaction has become.
In my own life, I find myself mainly reaching out in order to exchange information, make plans, or accomplish something on my to do list. But our relationships are meant to be so much more than this. There are so many benefits to spending quality time with a loved one simply for the sake of spending time- the main benefit being the stronger feeling of connection.
Meaningful connection is the single most important thing that research has found when it comes to our happiness. Connected people are happier people. They have lower levels of stress, lower blood pressure, healthier habits, and overall higher quality of life. If I can have all of those benefits by simply taking an hour to hang out with someone I enjoy spending time with, what am I waiting for?