“If you were told that you were going to have to move away from your current town in a mere 30 days, how would you spend your remaining time there?“- That’s precisely the question the researchers asked their participants.
In a recent study, they wanted to know what certain priorities people would have as they imagined their time in their town drawing to a close. They utilized freshmen and sophomores in college to avoid any bias as the condensed timelines mentioned in the question is just purely imaginary
. These participants were then asked to check in with the researchers weekly to report on their actions and feelings.
Results showed that those who lived the succeeding month as if it was their last showed a significant increase in happiness over the course of the experiment than those who didn’t. This positivity can be driven by the fulfillment of core psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and interpersonal relatedness) related to well-being. As one student put it, "I was productive, but didn’t spend too much time doing work without spending time with friends.”
Perhaps this question led them to feel like more active agents of their daily lives, as time’s imagined shortage helped clear their mind to focus on what their priorities truly are. Perhaps this enabled them to suppress the "shoulds" that so often hinder us from doing things that we love. Perhaps this helped them actually focus on what truly makes life rich and rewarding for them.
Whatever the reason may be, the question posed as a great motivation for having a happier and meaningful life. Although they actually still had a relative abundance of time left, they were still able to adopt such perspective and use it as an aid for positive change.
“Nothing will highlight their importance quite like imagining their absence,”
as psychology Ph. D. Jaime L. Kurtz puts it. Our minds our powerful tools waiting to be used properly for better lives. While we usually treasure those we know we’ll lose at a certain point, this study demonstrates that even the mere mindset of this can actually be of big help in pushing us to introspect and envision our priorities more clearly.