Science Says the More of This You Give, the Happier You’ll Be (Hint: It’s Not Money)


Let me tell you about Jason.

Jason leads a team of 15 persons, and he prides himself on being uber-productive. He’s up before dawn, following a strict routine as he heads out to the office before the rest of the family is out of bed. Throughout the day, he answers most emails and Slack messages within minutes, and puts in a long day of work before heading home.

But not everyone on Jason’s team loves his management style.

“He’s never available to talk,” says one member of the team. “Emails are one thing…but it’s almost impossible to have a face-to-face conversation. He’s just too busy.”

It’s not just Jason’s team that feels that way; his family often feels like neglected. It’s not intentional, there’s just not enough time in the day. Work comes first, which leads to lots of missed family dinners, soccer games, and dance recitals.

Recently, Jason had an epiphany. After some serious self-reflection, he realized that he had been holding on to an invaluable gift, one that he needed to begin sharing with others.

Giving time to others is a simple way you can get more out of your relationships, which is a key benefit of emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage emotions. Let’s break down why time is more valuable than money, what the research has to say about gifting your time, and how doing so can help you experience greater happiness.

(If you find value in the “gift of time” principle, you might be interested in my emotional intelligence course, which includes 20 more rules that help you develop your emotional intelligence. Check out the course here.)

How giving your time to others increases happiness and engagement

“The most precious resource we all have is time,” Steve Jobs famously said. He was right of course; there’s always more money to be made. But time is finite; once it’s gone, it’s gone.

That’s why it’s so important to live with intention when it comes to spending your time. In an era where everything seems to be battling for your attention, it’s all too easy to spend time in ways you will later regret. In contrast, when you share your time with others, you make them feel valued. That leads to stronger, deeper relationships…which, in turn, leads to a greater feeling of engagement, and happiness.

There’s research to back this up.

For example, research firm Gallup discovered that employees whose managers held regular meetings with them were almost three times as likely to be engaged at work than counterparts who had no regular meetings. Employees who had daily communication with their managers were most engaged.

But answering emails is one thing; showing personal interest is another. Gallup’s study also revealed that employees valued communication, not just about their roles and responsibilities, but also in their lives outside of work.

Of course, this type of investment takes time. But it’s time well spent.

But what about our personal lives?

In one study conducted by psychologists at the University of Zurich, participants were assigned to meet up with three people they cared about in the course of a week, to give them a “gift of time.” (The gift needed to be more than the time they would normally spend with each person). When compared with another group who wrote about their memories in a daily journal, the “time-givers” reported greater happiness. The longer they continued the practice, the more happiness they reported.

You can do the same thing.

This week, why don’t you plan your own gift of time? Simply pick a person you’d like to give some of your time to, and then plan to do something with that person that you wouldn’t do normally.

  • Inviting someone over or out for a meal, or even just for coffee
  • A surprise visit, where you bring a meal or dessert to share
  • Taking your person for a walk in the park or garden
  • A virtual call with an old friend you haven’t seen in forever
  • Taking time off of work to spend the afternoon with your mate, child, other family member, or friend

Each of these gifts of time are relatively simple, but they’re also extremely valuable, perhaps more than you think.

For one thing, whenever you share your time with others, you are actually working to build a stronger, deeper relationship.

But consider this as well: You hardly remember the time you spend alone–but you do remember the time you spend with others. So, by simply sharing your time with others, you make an investment; you’re creating memories for the future.

So, as you plan the upcoming week, remember:

Time is the most precious resource you have. Spend it wisely. Because once it’s gone, you’re never getting it back.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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