Time passes differently in Ireland. As I grew older and became more conscious of time, I noticed how my family and friends in Ireland had more time in their day. They rarely seemed to be rushing and had time to chat with their neighbor, help a stranger with driving directions, or offer a ride home to their kids’ friends.

They did all of this while having somewhere to be AND they seemed happy to do it! How is this possible? I have an answer, I really do. But first, let me tell you a little story. 

When I visit Ireland I often stay with my Aunt Linda and Uncle Martin. And on one particular Friday, we had planned on having dinner at my Aunt Clare’s house. My cousins were coming in from all over: Diane was traveling up on the train from Dublin, Michelle was driving in from Mullingar, Margaret and Daniel were working all day and David was in college locally. It was those five people, plus my Aunt Linda, Uncle Martin, and me heading to my Aunt Clare’s who had a similarly numbered household with comparable schedules. This group doesn’t often ALL get together for dinner so seems like some time management would be involved!?! 

I was on vacation with no car and typically things were planned for me so I happily went with the flow. I found a lift into town to do some much-needed shopping, so I asked my Aunt Linda what time I should return for dinner? I was met with a lighthearted chuckle and a shrug of the shoulders, with my Aunt Linda responding that dinner would be in the evening at dinner time. O K A Y. 

So I tried another angle. I asked, "What time does Diane's train get in?" My Aunt Linda responds "Well let me see now, it would be before dinner." Hhhmmm. 

Third attempt. I texted my cousin Michelle to see what time she was arriving; she was working all day and with the drive from Mullingar to Sligo I figured she'd have to do some planning. Michelle's response "Hiya, Louise. I don't know what time dinner is. All packed and getting on the road after work. See you soon!" 

How is it that no one knew what time dinner was? Yet, we all made it to my aunt’s house in time for dinner. My answer is that Irish people build their day around daily plans and not specific times. Of course, there are exceptions such as with dinner reservations, kids' schedules, and work obligations. But when it comes to making plans with your social circle we all have an understanding of each other's schedules. So in the case of my aunt we all had a rough idea of when work, childcare, or studying wrapped up so no one felt it necessary to name a specific time for dinner.

The 2021 United Nations World Happiness Report ranks 149 countries for happiness. Ireland is ranked at number 13 and it typically has stayed around that ranking for the past decade. There are six factors as to why countries make the ‘rank for happiness’, two of which are social support and generosity. I believe that because of the way the Irish approach time and planning - planning their day around events and not specific times - this leaves them with wiggle room in their day to build connections, be kind, and feel more part of a community and therefore happier. 

It takes time to build social connections, offer kindness, and create a community. Oftentimes this is typically done through smaller, daily interactions such as a quick chat on the way out of the office with a colleague or chatting to the shop clerk when picking up a bottle of wine for a dinner party. When one builds their day around events and not specific times; they have wiggle room between plans. Building connections with your community and being generous to your neighbors are much easier to do when you have time built into your day.

So how does one create more time in their day when we're not living in Ireland but in the US where our general understanding of time is different from Ireland's? 

We start with what we can control. Our mindset.

In 2005, three researchers published a paper about pursuing happiness in the Review of General Psychology. Through their research, they proposed happiness is determined by genetics at 50%, intentional activity at 40%, and circumstances at 10% as illustrated in the Happiness Pie Chart. Intentional activity, according to the researchers, is "the wide variety of things that people do and think in their daily lives" and determines 40% of one's happiness. 

Think about using some of that intentional activity by giving yourself more time between your daily commitments. At first, you might sit in your car because you have 20 minutes to spare, and even if you do just that you will likely feel less anxious and calmer because you’re not rushing. When arranging plans to meet at a friend's house, consider giving yourself a window of time to arrive as opposed to an exact time. As you give yourself space and time to move from one event to another in your daily life, you will find you have time for an impromptu chat with your neighbor or offer to help someone with their bags in the grocery store parking lot. 

And, eventually, the wiggle room that you created between your daily plans and the connections you built and the generosity that you received or gave will compound. And you may just feel as happy as the Irish do.

Let me know how it works out. 

Contributor: Daily Irish Dose  https://dailyirishdose.com

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