I recently came across a paper outlining the three key ingredients to a day well spent:
1. Do Something Alone
Such as reading, listening to music, or meditating
2. Do Something with Others
Such as going out for coffee, riding your bike, or watching a movie
3. Do Something Meaningful
Such as volunteering, helping a neighbor in need, or calling a friend who’s struggling.
The key is making the effort to do it intentionally, note authors Christopher Peterson, Martin Seligman and Nanook Park in their paper “Orientations to Happiness and Life Satisfaction: The Good Life versus the Empty Life.”
Even suicidal psychiatric patients were found to benefit from doing this exercise and reported more optimism and less hopelessness afterward.
When I was in boarding school, the headmaster would announce a surprise holiday once a semester. The entire school would be sitting in Chapel, ready for a regular day of class, and he would ask us to turn to a certain page in the Prayer Book and read a prayer about the importance of play. We all knew what that prayer meant—classes were cancelled and we were free to do as we pleased. It was the best feeling in the world. We attended class six days a week so a day off was beyond precious. The best part was that we had done all our homework the night before. The day belonged to us.
Those days were like gold. Every minute counted. I spent time with friends; I read books or listened to music, and I wrote at least one letter to my parents, grandmother or sister. It was a day well spent. Looking back I know why—it was filled with meaning, engagement and connection.
As an adult, it is challenging to build those ingredients into each day but it is possible. Now, go ahead and make your day.