Free Time?

     Angela Haupt (2021) presented research on leisure time in her article in the Washington Post. She reported studies that showed that a person's sense of well-being increases with more free time but only up to a certain point. If there is either too little or too much free time, feelings of well-being decrease. What makes for an optimal balance?

     A good balance is achieved with a moderate amount of discretionary time. Too little creates a a time crunch that can be stressful. It can seem impossible to catch up with too much to do. The to-do list can be so long that it is overwhelming. Yet too much free time leaves us feeling unproductive and lacking in purpose.
     The researchers found that the optimal amount of free time each day is around two to four hours. Less than two hours means that schedules are too tight. More than four hours makes for uneasiness, unless the additional time is spent being social or time spent in some other meaningful way.
     Some suggestions were made to help make a balanced use of time. To optimize discretionary time, choose activities that are worthwhile, such as interacting with others. Don't see free time as a waste of time but as refreshing and valuable. If you are too often in a time crunch, evaluate schedules and decide on what has priority and what can be let go or delayed. Leave room for spontaneity. Find at least two hours each day, not necessarily continuous, to do just what you want to do.
     Mind, Mood & Memory (2021) from Massachusetts General Hospital  reported on a series of studies that found that people who value productivity and see leisure as wasteful and unproductive enjoy leisure less and have more mood disorders later in life compared with those who do value their free time. It is better to see leisure activities as supportive of energy, relationships, and other benefits.

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