Many people, from Aristotle and the Dalai Lama, have expressed opinions on human happiness. However, a Rutgers-led new study has found that complete contentment is dependent on believing that leisure activities don’t waste time.
Four studies were examined and their findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
“While work can impart meaning and a sense of purpose in life, leisure, such as time with family and friends, hobbies and exercise, is what makes our lives happy and healthy,” said lead author Gabriela Tonietto, an assistant professor of marketing at Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick. “But not everyone sees value in time spent on leisure. Many hold a general belief that these activities are an unproductive use of time – at the cost of their own happiness. We find that believing leisure is wasteful causes time spent on leisure to be less enjoyable.”
According to the study we are more likely to view it as a wasteful activity than we are to enjoy our other pursuits, especially those that are purely leisure activities like hanging out with friends, relaxing, or watching TV.
Exercise and meditation are more productive activities. They can still be enjoyed, even if they don’t feel like they have any value.
These results showed that people who don’t enjoy pleasure-driven activities are more anxious, depressed and stressed. These findings suggest that happiness is not just determined by how people spend their leisure time, but also whether they find value from what they do.
The researchers asked 302 people what they did on Halloween and how much they enjoyed it. They also asked about their attitudes towards leisure. People who consider leisure a wasteful had fewer fun activities for Halloween than those who enjoy other activities, such as trick or treating with their children.
Participants read a news article that aimed to convince them that leisure is unproductive, wasteful or productive.
Then, they were asked to rate the “Best Funny Cat Videos 2019” video and then they were asked how much it was enjoyable. People who believe that is a wasteful activity or not productive didn’t enjoy the video as much, as did those who think leisure time is important and productive.
Researchers suggest that those who consider leisure to be wasteful are more likely to associate it with procrastination at the expense or neglect of work. Researchers say that leisure can sometimes be wasted time but most of the times it is beneficial.
Tonietto said that attitudes can be hard to change and it might not be possible to completely shift your views overnight. Focusing on the positive ways individual leisure activities can contribute to their long-term goals is a good idea for those who view it as a wasteful activity.
The research was done in collaboration with Harvard University researchers and The Ohio State University researchers.