Overnight shipping from Amazon. Panicked, last minute phone calls to florists. Saturday night drug store runs to track down the last Mother's Day card. Just this once, forget about all that. This Mother's Day, do something different. Do something radical. Do something, dare I say, sacrilegious: Don't buy your mother a gift.
Before you throw your Whitman's chocolates at me, allow me to explain: I'm not telling you to forget your mom this Mother's Day. Instead, honor her by giving her a gift that will last a lifetime: your time.
Why would you do that? You might think that by purchasing a physical gift for your mother you are giving her a gift that will last a lifetime, but you'd be wrong.
Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University who studies the relationship between money and happiness explained in a recent article in Psychological Science that the joy we get from owning material goods actually decreases over time, but the happiness we derive from spending time with loved ones (i.e., mom) goes up as time goes on. This may seem counterintuitive because experiences are fleeting and a necklace or an iPhone can last for years. The missing piece to this equation is adaptation. No matter how amazing an object is, having it around all the time allows you to adapt to it. The jewelry, or even a car, becomes part of your every day and you begin to forget about it. The objects seem, and actually become, less special. In contrast, spending time together becomes part of your shared memory and identity.
Objects seem, and actually become, less special. In contrast, spending time together becomes part of your shared memory and identity.
In happiness economics, this phenomenon is called as the Easterlin Paradox. It was first coined to explain why Americans did not become happier in the 1970s, in spite of their increased incomes. Although new things can be exciting to us at first and they can even make us happy for a moment, we then tend to adapt to them. Eventually, as the excitement lowers, they become yet another item in our life.
True joy and happiness depend on more than presents. They require presence. Specifically, your presence. Probably the only thing your mom truly needs is to spend more time with you.
So your mom can get a whole lot happier if you decide to devote to her one of the most precious commodities these days -- your time.
Think for a moment of how much more meaningful it will be for you to spend time together - at a restaurant, a show, or even just taking a walk. This will create more meaningful memories and consolidate your bond - shared experiences bind us more together than shared consumption.
This Mother's Day, maximize your mom's happiness by spending the time with her by being present - wholly, truly, fully - with every ounce of your being. It will truly last a lifetime.
Oh, and Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there.
Dr. Ben Michaelis is a clinical psychologist in full-time private practice in Manhattan. Dr. Michaelis writes and speaks regularly about mental health, creativity, and motivation. He is the author of numerous popular and scholarly articles and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Dr. Michaelis is a frequent guest on nationally syndicated TV shows such as, NBC's The Today Show, The Hallmark Channel's Home & Family, and MSNBC's Your Business. Dr. Michaelis is the author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy. You can get the 1st chapter of his book by signing up here.