Has this ever happened to you?
You come home busy from a day at work. You don’t have time to cook one of those amazing meals you’ve seen on the cover of a magazine or on Pinterest. The “Easy Weeknight Dinner” that requires eight or ten different ingredients, 30 minutes of prep time, and 30 minutes of cooking time is an hour you don’t have.
No, the best you can do tonight is takeout, uberEats, or a frozen entree from the Whole Foods.
Oh well, tonight won’t be a special night.
Anyway, you got some emails to catch up on while you eat. You got a text to answer. Take a break by checking Facebook. Oh, what a cute puppy on Instagram.
Unfortunately, once you start doing that, everybody else around you starts doing that too. Pretty soon you’re so used to being on your phone, it doesn’t matter if you’re dining at home, at a restaurant, or at a resort by the beach.
But it really doesn’t have to be that way. It only takes a minute to set things up and connect with your loved ones, even if you don’t cook. It’s time for “Gracious Time”:
Why We Need Gracious Time
Are you happier now than you were ten years ago?
Has the sheer volume of notifications flooding from your phone made you feel closer to people?
Probably Not. In fact, psychologists have noticed that social media has made us lonelier, more easily frustrated, and less happy. Hence all the trolling.
Don’t get us wrong: We love technology! But we also know that as human beings, we’re naturally wired for strong, lasting bonds with small groups of loved ones. Our ancestors spent long nights around campfires with their families and tribes. They weren’t following thousands of strangers and liking their posts on a phone every night. And when we don’t take the time to connect with each other and build strong relationships, we’ve lost a vital part of our emotional health.
That’s why we all need some time each day to really connect with one another, to bond and then reinforce those bonds. We call it “Gracious Time” because at the heart of it, being gracious means being there for each other, understanding each other, and giving each other the most valuable thing we have — our time.
The One Minute Hack to Connecting Again
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to break out of our high-tech, fast-paced lives and connect with our loved ones again. Our minds quickly tune out of repetitive events, but by changing things just a little bit, we become aware again. Altogether, it takes about a minute on any day to break your regular routine and connect with the special people in your life. Just follow these three simple steps:
- Put the phone away.
- Set out a nice table.
- Talk. To. Each. Other.
That’s it. I’ve timed myself, and it takes less than a minute to do #1 and #2. And then you can take as long as you’d like with #3.
The best part is, you don’t have to even cook — this works just as well with take out and frozen entrees. For example, this is for serving up frozen pizza:
So why aren’t you doing it? Is it one of these reasons?
But I’m Really Important and Busy . . .
Yes, we all are.
That’s why we worked a full day, non stop, battling our way through emails, texts, calls, memos, briefs, what have you.
And we’re certainly not telling you to leave the Emergency Room for a five-course dinner.
But most of us can — and need — a time to reconnect with people. If your work is overwhelming, then talk about your work during dinner. Go over it again with someone who’s not as involved, who can give you a neutral, detached point of view or a second opinion. It’ll probably help you see things in a new light.
Otherwise, just talk with each other. Even someone you’ve known for years could still surprise and delight you.
But I Don’t Know How to Set a Nice Table
You know more than you probably realize. Just start by removing all the distractions and set out something to make it feel special and happy. If you have anything in the cupboards that are being saved for “special occasions,” bring them out!
The key is to break your regular routine and use the table setting to create a conversation point. Love flowers and gardening? You probably have some plates or napkins with flowers. Set them out. Let them become the unconscious cues that remind you of something happy.
But I Don’t Have Anyone to Dine With
In that case, just dine alone without the usual distractions. Become mindful of the food you’re eating. Concentrate on its color, texture, and taste like you’ve never had a pizza or sandwich before. It’s actually very relaxing to have a little quiet “Me Time” this way.
Or, put the phone up in a stand in front of yourself, dial up someone on Skype or Facetime, and dine remotely together. (See, we’re not against technology.) Focus and talk with each other, instead of breaking off to check your emails/texts/facebook/instagram on some other phone.
But Nobody in My Family Will Go For This
That’s probably because they don’t feel up for a big, formal affair. So don’t make it a big production. Take baby steps. Try it just one night a week. Don’t use anything that would make people feel uncomfortable. Just put away the distractions and ask everyone to talk. And listen.
Ok, any more reasons why you can’t do this? If so, please leave them a comment and let’s talk about it.
And Now It’s Up To You
Otherwise, please try it! Leave a comment and let us know how it went. Share a photo of it with us on instagram with #GraciousTime (not during dinner!) And check back in or subscribe for more ideas and photos on Gracious Time.
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