For the Love of Leisure

Sometimes it’s hard to relax. We’ve gotten so used to going a million miles an hour, maximizing every second, that it can feel counter-intuitive to enjoy the luxury of doing nothing at all.

Leisure is a huge component of the lake lifestyle, which offers peace and tranquility. The desire to escape the frantic, demanding nature of modern life is the main reason so many flock to the lake.

Still, in this rapidly moving world, many underestimate the importance of a little R&R.

Making a deliberate effort to relax is a mental health necessity in this culture of productivity and efficiency. Maintaining boundaries between work life and down-time has proven benefits for productivity, wellness and creativity.

There is measurable value in leisure.

man fishing on the dock at sunset

Why is Leisure Good for You?

First, let’s look at what leisure is not.

Deliberate rest is not mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or watching television like a zombie for hours, nor is it sleeping the day away.

Leisure is less about wasting time, and more about the quality of time spent doing something you love.

It’s about detaching from work, rejecting busyness and instead, losing yourself in the flow and letting your mind wander.

Humans love to daydream. A study conducted by two Harvard psychologists showed that people let their minds wander 47 percent of the time they’re awake.

While often regarded as proof of laziness, or a waste of time, daydreaming is seen as an important cognitive tool by psychologists and neuroscientists. When we rest, our brains enter into Default Mode Network, or D.M.N.

D.M.N. is highly active and directly correlates with empathy, emotional judgment, intelligence and overall mental health. Wandering minds tend to be better at generating new ideas. Similarly, night dreaming, or R.E.M. sleep, also helps with cultivating creative insight.

It’s no surprise, then, that the most creative people have been shown to possess a more strongly developed D.M.N.

“A daydream,” notes columnist Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker, “is just a means of eavesdropping on those novel thoughts generated by the unconscious.”

In short, sufficient mental rest is crucial for health, development and productivity.

Reclaim Your Time

It seems like every hour of everyday, everyone is vying for a bit of your time.

The kids, your parents, your clients and your boss are always calling.

Advertisements and marketing techniques bombard you on television, the internet, and the radio. News alerts, text messages, emails, and social media notifications are popping up on your phone from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed.

According to research, 44 percent of people say they sleep next to their phone and 67 percent say they check their phones even when there’s been no notification. It’s safe to say that every now and then, it’s a good idea to take time to unplug.

Even if it’s just for 20 minutes a day, turning your phone off and disconnecting from the world for a while can have profound benefits on your health. Freedom from news alerts alone can greatly reduce the stress and anxiety that typically accompany knowledge of world events.

Reclaim your time. This is a great way of reminding ourselves that the hours in our day belong to us, and no one else is entitled to them. You could use this time for contemplative solitude or indulging in a creative activity.

Leveraging Your Downtime

In 1948, an innovative company called 3M developed a program known as 15 percent time. This program allows employees to use 15 percent of their paid time at work to “chase rainbows and hatch their own ideas.”

The thought was that, when allowed to let their minds wander and follow creative instincts, employees were better able to come up with products and innovation that benefited the company. It worked.

15 percent time eventually gave way to many of the company’s best-selling products, like Post-It notes.

One major company to adopt the concept was Google, with a slightly altered version they called 20 percent time. This break for innovation and creativity gave way to some of Google’s most successful applications, like  Gmail, AdSense and Google Earth.

Leisure doesn’t necessarily mean impractical.

older woman painting outsideHaving a job to pay the bills while leveraging your off-time to pursue creative instincts could give rise to great things. Known as a “journey of duality,” artistic ventures outside of your day job can be seen as “side hustles for the soul.”

Some of the most famous artists in history—Franz Kafka, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Ives—held mundane day jobs like insurance agents and janitors while they worked on masterpieces in their off-time.

Having a way to self-identify outside of work also helps to improve the way you think about yourself and the world around you. “I’m not just a schoolteacher, I’m also a painter.”

The more the world speeds up, the more it’s necessary for us to slow down. Stick your feet in the water and watch the sun set. Curl up with a good book or experiment with a new dish.

Find a way to enjoy your spare time. Simply put, hobbies and deliberate rest lead to a healthier, happier life.


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