Enough quality time spent with family and friends are vital to our emotional and mental resilience. It’s not enough though to simply spend time with them. The keywords here are “enough” and “quality”.
Nor is the problem confined to exam times. Some students, especially where there is a focus on coursework and consistent achievement, are taking them throughout the academic year, worried that their grades will suffer if they stop.
Everyone’s definition of ‘quality’ will differ to some extent, and that’s normal. What it does do though is rule out time spent watching tv from opposite ends of the sofa, or sitting together but each distracted by their phone.
‘Enough’ will also differ between people. Introverts may need less time with other people, or find a companionable silence emotionally satisfying. The more gregarious may need a greater variety of contact, or more direct interaction.
Whatever your individual definitions, enough quality time spent with family and friends can be hard to find. Like sleep or exercise, it’s also prone to being sacrificed to make time for other things – normally work or jobs around the home.
The problem is that whilst it’s just as important as sleep and exercise the impact of not getting enough time with friends and family aren’t as quick or obvious. Instead they contribute to a persistent lowering of mood, which in turn can make us less inclined to spend time with other people.
Substituting interaction on social media for wider social contact is a common response to our innate need for time with our family and friends.
It’s also a truism that the people we spend the most time with are the ones that we are likely to have quality time with. If you only see a friend occasionally then when you do meet up you’ll both presumably look forward to meeting, and be engaged with the other.
That contrasts with our couple sat at opposite ends of the settee, or both concentrating on their own phones and social media. It’s this need for quality time with that partly accounts for the popularity of ‘date nights’.
If you’re planning or using ‘date nights’ then here are five tips to get the most benefit from them.
- Make a commitment to a regular date night and stick to it.
- It doesn’t have to be something elaborate or expensive – it just has to be time spent actively being together. That means no-one else is invited, and it also means no phones out for the duration of the date.
- Don’t put too much pressure on date night – it’s meant to be enjoyable, not perfect. And alternate who does the planning, so that no-one gets to feel taken for granted or railroaded.
- Whilst it’s about being together it isn’t about using it as a chance to bring up what you don’t like about the other person’s habits or relatives. It’s about quality time together, not about couples therapy.
- Keep it fresh. Although ‘date night’ should be regular part of your routine that doesn’t mean that what you do has to stay the same. Go to new places, try different types of food, films, comedians, or experiences.
These rules can also be used in different relationships – parent/child, carer/cared for, or even in working relationships. And don’t forget the other important areas – time spent around nature and animals, and time spent on pastimes.
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