By Hagit Malikin, Intern at Evolution Psychology Center
Feeling of mental relaxation. Increase in happiness and healthy communication. Positive affect.1,2
Wow don’t these sound great? You might be thinking that it’s just another complicated change you need to make in your life. Well, I have good news for you! The list above is all about the benefits of leisure time.
For those who are unfamiliar with this word, let me take a few moments to explain. Leisure is a time where one indulges in activities for pleasure, with no external or internal pressures being present3. Now, you may look at this definition and think to yourself, “Ha, that’s funny! Who has time for these kinds of things? Leisure sure feels more like a privilege rather than a necessity”.
In reality, leisure time is as important as eating healthy meals, getting a restful night sleep, going to work and taking care of your family and home. It is a necessary component of wellbeing. Unfortunately, when we create our “to do list”, leisure time is the last one on the list and the first one to get removed when we run out of time.
Researchers, David Newman and his colleagues, analyzed many existing research on this topic to provide a better understanding as to how a simple thing, like leisure time, benefits our well-being. They came up with five specific factors4.
- Detaching: This component of leisure and wellbeing builds upon the need to physically and psychologically detach from work. A successful detachment is one of the mechanisms through which leisure positively effects our wellbeing. Detaching from work provides us a time to recover from aspects such as work stress and mental fatigue.
- Autonomy: As leisure is personal and is not accompanied with a sense of obligation, individuals require independence and self-direction as they participate in an activity of their choice. Research found that engaging in joyful activities helps restore individual perception of control and freedom, which in turn, increases well-being. Since there are no deadlines or stress to perform in the leisure activities we choose, autonomous motivation (inner motivation) guides us to continue engaging in our activity. Motivation and autonomy are two characteristics that play a role in linking leisure to our wellbeing.
- Mastery: Having a feeling of accomplishment has always been seen to increase mood and wellbeing. Personal growth and accomplishment are important human factors for living a happier life. Being able to challenge yourself and provide learning opportunities, outside of your daily duties, are important components for a higher sense of self-fulfillment.
- Meaning: Engaging in meaningful activities increase positive emotions and decrease negative ones. Such activities can add value and purpose to one’s life and in turn, increase life satisfaction and wellbeing. Adding personal value (e.g., taking knitting classes) or community value (e.g., volunteering in a shelter) enhances the meaning to one’s life and affords a great addition to one’s work and home accomplishments.
- Affiliation: Feeling part of a group is one of the most important human needs after food and shelter. Feeling belonged and surrounded by people with similar interests and values is present when engaging in social leisure activities.
Leisure time is all about removing yourself from the pressures that accompany your duties, both professionally and personally, and giving yourself some time to dive into in an activity that truly provides a sense of happiness and mental relaxation. Leisure doesn’t always have to be an “unproductive” activity; it can be about self-improvement and growth. Participating in activities, such as taking a cooking class or reading an educational book, provides a sense of growth and learning without the internal and external pressures that may exist in your daily duties.
As summer creeks around the corner, we start to come out of our winter shells and begin to enjoy the warm sunny weather. Take a moment and try to make leisure time a priority this summer season!
2. Pomohaci, M., Sopa, I.S. (2018). Leisure Sport Activities and Their Importance in Living a Healthy Physical and Psycho-Social Lifestyle. Buletin Stiintific, 23(1), 36–42.
4. Newman, D.B., Tay, L., & Diener, E. (2014). Leisure and Subjective Well-Being: A Model of Psychological Mechanisms as Mediating Factors. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15, 3. 555 – 578.