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Spending our holiday time

            The holidays are a good time to think about who one spends their time with and what that looks like in the context of life as a whole, whether we’re on our way to grandma’s house or just stopping by the neighbor’s with a Christmas card. It’s the time of year a majority of people spend the most hours with friends or family, while other times of year these connections might be skipped.

            According to data from the American Time Use Survey, time with both family and friends is in deceptively short supply. Time with friends peaks at age 18 (school is good for friendships) and time with family peaks in childhood (for obvious reasons). This makes it all the more important to be present at the holidays. Those minutes might be worth more than the average movement of a clock hand as less and less time is spent with these two groups.

            The time use chart also makes plain the amount of time one spends and will spend alone. Throughout life this is where most of our time is spent, and it only increases with age. Being alone at the holidays and being alone in other parts of life is not necessarily bad, but feeling lonely is.

            In a study titled “Are U.S. Older Adults Getting Lonelier?: Age, Period, and Cohort Differences” published in Psychology and Aging the authors found “no evidence that loneliness is substantially higher…or that it has increased over the past decade,” so that is good news, but it doesn’t mean you can skip Christmas Eve dinner because you didn’t cook anything.

            In the same study loneliness is shown to actually decrease with age, as people become more socially experienced and selective about who they spend their time with. Many might call this their “I don’t like other people” phase, but there is a phycological advantage to that selectiveness.

            Take that advantage and be selective about who you spend your time with to end the year, but don’t make excuses not to see them; we’ve only got so many minutes in the tank to be able to spend with everyone and the holidays are already set up for us to be able to make those connections more easily.

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