Have you ever gone home, said a bland hello to your significant other, taken out your phone and proceeded to spend the next few hours scrolling through messages?
And, on the very same evening, wondered why you don’t feel connected with those around you.
Unsurprisingly, around half (50.65%) of Australians report an addiction to their phones, with an average of 7.8 phone checks an hour. And while phones alone solely aren’t to blame, it’s clear that more and more Australians are feeling out of touch with the world. Over half of all young Australians (54%) feel disconnected, isolated and lacking in companionship.
Evidence also seems to suggest that feelings of isolation are related to our inability to focus on a single task for a prolonged period of time. This relates directly to the amount of stimulus we engage with daily — on our phones, on our computers, gaming devices, TVs, out on the street, and just about anywhere we go. This is partly due to how our electronic devices are designed to reward the brain with short bursts of dopamine and to continue on to the next piece of stimulus.
It’s why we continue to see shorter and shorter advertising messages, social posts and video content and why 60% of readers won’t make it this far into this blog.
Our time is one of the hardest commitments to make in the ‘digital land of plenty’. While the internet is full of elaborate ways of expressing our feelings, from expensive displays and flashy products to incredible overseas holidays, quality time is perhaps the most important of the love languages. That isn’t to suggest that the other languages aren’t important, but it’s through quality time with others that we form the best relationships and fulfil the basic human need for companionship, understanding and emotional connections.
Love languages describe the different ways that we express and receive love. This doesn’t necessarily always include romantic love but can also refer to friends, family members, coworkers or anyone else within our circle of regular interaction.
A love language is the way we best like to receive care from others. Our love languages affect us deeply because they’re equated with feelings of self-worth and connection.
This is perhaps the showiest and most easily validated love language. A gift from someone can display understanding, love and care, especially when it relates to a value or something they care about. However, buying indiscriminately doesn’t necessarily fulfil a deeper need for connection and can produce the opposite result.
Acts of service are more about doing something for someone that benefits or has emotional resonance for them. Again, the internet is full of examples of elaborate acts of service, but even simple gestures, such as making cups of tea and opening doors, can be incredibly personable and moving.
Skin-to-skin contact is one of the most fundamental needs, especially in newborns, as it helps regulate our bodies and improve our mental health, including anxiety, depression, stress and other symptoms.
Language also has a huge impact on our daily mental well-being. Affirmations and positive statements help reprogram our subconscious mind and affirm our beliefs in ourselves.
Quality time is perhaps the simplest, on the surface, love language to replicate. It doesn’t necessarily involve buying or doing anything but simply being present.
Yet it’s also one of the hardest because being actually ‘present’ in any given moment is incredibly tricky. Stray thoughts, urges to check our phones, thoughts about work, the day’s events, concerns, and negative feelings all accumulate, distracting us from focusing on the other person.
Focusing on another intently is also a very vulnerable and difficult thing to do, even with those we’ve been around or intimate with for a long time. Without props and distractions, it may feel as if we’re in the spotlight or under observation. It can be hard opening up for some true qualitative time.
But psychologically, it helps improve relationships, enhances connectivity, and strengthens our ability to concentrate on the present task.
Quality time isn’t about banning technology or getting upset when things don’t go as planned. Rather, it takes time to be comfortable with the idea.
You could start by setting aside your phones and other devices. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a movie or another activity together, but the idea is that you’re giving something your full attention and experiencing that thing with the person beside you.
You might also begin by discussing simple things and taking the time to give real answers. Ask each other about your day or a topic they’re interested in. You might ask them to tell you something new you’ve never heard before or an unvoiced opinion.
The key is to try to be present at the moment and really notice the other person. The validation this brings can aid mental well-being — not just for those you care about but also for yourself.