How and Why To Make Time For Socializing

Individual Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft

There’s a good reason that 113 million people tuned in to watch the Super Bowl — it was a wonderful chance for people to get together with friends they may not have seen in ages, with the game practically running in the background. The fact is that people love to socialize and even people who have no interest in football take the golden opportunity to get together.

Friends talking and laughing

Which brings up an interesting question: Why, then, are people increasingly spending less time socializing? It may be related to a trend that is coming to be known as time poverty. Writing for Psychology Today, Natalie Kerr, Ph.D., says “the norms of modern life — those unwritten rules about what is ‘normal’ or desirable behavior — are changing, and they’re contributing to a chronic sense of isolation. For example:

  • We’re spending less time socializing in person, and more time on our devices.
  • Our friendship circles are shrinking, and fewer of us have a best friend.
  • More people than ever are working remotely and/or living alone.”

This is a real problem, because there are mountains of research detailing the benefits of maintaining close friendships, being part of a community — especially a faith-based community — and being in a long-term committed relationship. As just one example, consider U.S. government health statistics that WebMD reports, showing “Married folks not only live longer than singles, but the longevity gap between the two groups is growing.”

In a further ironic twist, people are almost proud about being so pressed for time. “Time poverty is a sign of the times,” writes Kerr. “The standard reply to ‘How are you?’ is often, ‘I’m so busy!’ Many people find it increasingly difficult to carve out time to see friends, pursue a hobby, or take a vacation. Some people even brag about how busy they are because it’s become a status symbol. It makes us feel important somehow.”

So what’s the answer. How do we carve out time to renew those social connections that are so fundamental to our psychological, spiritual and even physical health? Kerr offers a few suggestions.

Buy Time. This is not just a turn of phrase. You can literally pay to free up some time. “You might pay to outsource a disliked chore, get a direct flight instead of a cheaper one with a layover, or pay a toll to drive the fastest route home,” writes Kerr. “Then, invest your windfall of free time in something socially engaging — like calling a friend or hanging out with your kids.”

Give Time. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, if you schedule time to help out others, you ensure a social activity that connects you to others. What’s more, research shows that volunteering reduces levels of anxiety and depression. In short, helping others is the surest way to help yourself.

Do Less. This is the most logical step imaginable. Learn how to say no and practice setting boundaries on your time. In the end, you may find yourself more productive overall and, more important, a lot happier.