using leisure time to make yourself happy

The word “leisure” doesn’t necessarily make us think about being active and intentional in the way we spend our time. After all, phrases like “at your leisure” and “going for a leisurely walk” imply taking it easy and letting things happen at their own pace.

But “leisure time” or “free time” isn’t a time where we do nothing. Rather, it’s a time we can use to do whatever makes us happy.

Sometimes we just really need a break, and doing whatever makes us happy means doing whatever’s easiest. We turn on the TV or browse the web aimlessly, and it helps us decompress after a long day.

But always doing whatever’s easiest isn’t likely to be a recipe for happiness! “Leisure” doesn’t have to mean passive. Finding the right mix of active and passive things to do in our free time is essential to keeping life interesting.

That’s why being deliberate about how we use our leisure time is one of the biggest favors we can do for ourselves. Paying attention to what mix of leisure activities keeps us feeling best and adjusting how we spend our time accordingly can turn our leisure time from “things we do when we don’t have anything else to do: into “things we do that make us happy.”

If you’re like me, you might find that just because you can do whatever you want in your free time doesn’t mean you automatically do the things that make you happiest. You might do things because they’re habitual or because they’re easy.

Doing things because they’re habitual or easy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re not selective it can mean missing out on spending your time in a way that makes you feel better.

In this Ask the Therapist episode, Marie Hartwell-Walker and Daniel J. Tomasulo talk about the different ways of spending free time psychologists have researched and give some tips on how to create the right blend of leisure activities in your life. Just like knowing the different food groups can be helpful in keeping up a balanced diet, knowing some of the ways psychologists categorize leisure activities can be helpful in using your free time to actively promote your own happiness.

Watch the video below, and take a look at the Psych Central YouTube channel for more tips on staying happy, energized and optimistic.

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