How do you spend most of your free time?

About a year ago, researchers in the Netherlands were interested in:

  • How wealthy people spend their free time (aren’t we all) and if the ways they spend their time is related to their well-being.
  • The autonomy wealthy people have over their time at work and whether that autonomy led to greater satisfaction.

Turns out, rich people kindasorta spend their time the same ways the rest of the general population does, but when it comes to “down time” the wealthy tend to engage in more active leisure activities while average-income folks tend to lean toward passive leisure activities.

  • Active Leisure: Active leisure activities involve using physical or mental energy, often overlap with recreational activities, and usually happen outside your home and with other people (like volunteering, hobbies, and exercise).
  • Passive Leisure: Passive leisure activities involve using little or no physical or mental energy and are usually done alone (think vegging out in front of the television until bedtime).

Also turns out, wealthy people tend to have greater work autonomy than the general population has and have more independence when it comes to managing their work hours.

(You’ve probably guessed that, yes, these active leisure activities and this greater control in managing their working hours both lead to greater life satisfaction and overall happiness.)

So what can we average-income folks take away from this?

Well, depending on your job, you may or (most likely) may not have that much control over how you spend your work hours. I mean, if you’re an administrative assistant or a nurse or a dog groomer or a teacher, the bulk of your work day is set in stone. Sure, there’s some wiggle room in how you do what you have to do, but overall you’re not that in control of how your work hours play out.

However, people of all walks of life have a lot more wiggle room with how they spend their leisure time. Yes, some leisure activities require a few extra dollars in the bank (hitting the links at a private country club, for example, or, I don’t know, yacht racing), but you absolutely don’t have to be wealthy to engage in more active leisure activities than passive leisure activities.

You have a lot of choices, too. Generally, active leisure is divided into three categories: social, cognitive, and physical. Let’s dive in!

1. Social Leisure

The primary focus of social leisure is socializing with family and friends. So, you might:

  • Get a few parents together and organize a day trip to a local museum. Great for the adults and the kids!
  • Attend a concert with friends. Sometimes tickets (and travel) can get expensive, so look around for local shows or even free concert events. For example, my city has an outdoor summer concert series each year from May until September (with the exception of this year’s coronavirus nightmare, of course). Attending is free (though you might want to bring a few dollars for the vendors!).
  • Look for volunteering opportunities. Many animal shelters regularly seek volunteers for dog walking. Some nursing home accept volunteers to spend time reading to or playing games with residents.

2. Cognitive Leisure

With cognitive leisure, the focus is on mentally stimulating activities.

  • Have a friend teach you chess. Or, if you know how to play, volunteer to teach someone else chess.
  • Start journaling. Work on poems, or short story ideas, or simply unload your day on the pages before bed.
  • Learn a new language.

Fun Fact: Some research has shown cognitive leisure activities can help with keeping dementia at bay.

3. Physical Leisure

Physical leisure activities involve exercise and sport.

  • Download the free Couch to 5K (C25K) app and get moving.
  • Join a community soccer or softball league.
  • Take a yoga class. Some yoga studios can get a little pricey, but some have the occasional donation-based class. Also, you could opt for just one class a week and spend the rest of the week practicing what you learned in that week’s class.

Alright YBYM readers! What social, cognitive, or physical active leisure activity are you going to take up this weekend? Or, if you’re already into something, share with us what it is and your favorite thing about it!

Photo: Viktor Hanacek