Who in his right mind doesn’t want to have more free time?? People generally complain about being too busy and barely having any free time. Does having more free time promote greater happiness? According to this study published by the American Psychological Association (APA) in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, as the amount of free time one has increases so does an individual’s sense of wellbeing. However, there is a tipping point where more free time rather becomes unhealthy. Exactly how much free time is healthy to have? How should one use his or her free time in a healthy and productive way?
According to Changing America, having too little free time isn’t good for your wellbeing but so is having too much. With too much free time, there is a drop in productivity which reduces one’s wellbeing. We were naturally wired to work and be productive. When you’re idle, you feel bored and it could get depressing. It could even lead you to do things you’ll end up regretting. As the saying goes: “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop”.
What about the scientific evidence of this? Researchers in the afore-mentioned study analyzed results from two surveys that had a total of over 36000 respondents. One of them was conducted by American Time Use from 2012 to 2013 in which they asked participants to give details of what they did the previous day and also report their sense of wellbeing. The results showed that wellbeing rose as free time increased up until about 2 hours of free time where it stayed fairly constant. It began to decline as from 5 hours upwards. In the second survey conducted by the National Study of the Changing Workforce, from 1992 to 2008, the results were similar. Overall, the more free time individuals had, the greater their wellbeing but it began to decline from a certain point.
To confirm their findings, the researchers themselves (Shariff et al.) performed their own online experiment with about 6000 participants. The participants were asked to imagine having different amounts of free time which were: 15 mins, 3.5 hours and up to 7 hours of free time daily for 6 months. Then they also reported how much happiness, enjoyment and satisfaction they will likely get from that free time. Those with just 15 minutes of free time were more stressed and had a lower wellbeing as expected. Those with 7hours of free time reported having a significantly lower wellbeing due to reduced productivity. These results were amazing and it shows that too much free time isn’t necessarily ideal. Which means that there is a sweet spot where the free time is just enough for optimal happiness and satisfaction.
How should you use your free time? Shariff et al. conducted a second experiment where the
participants were asked to imagine spending their free time doing productive activities such as reading, running, or practicing their hobbies versus unproductive ones such as social media, watching TV shows or movies. Participants with high amounts of free time that spent it doing unproductive activities reported low amounts of wellbeing. However, when they engaged in productive activities, they had similar levels of wellbeing to those with moderate amounts of leisure time.
These results show that it’s not just having free time that matters, but how you use it. Having so much free time could make you unhappy. You should aim to have a moderate amount of free time that you can use to relax. Any amount of time between 2 to 4 hours should be okay. Also, you should use your free time productively by doing activities such as exercise, reading, practicing your hobby amongst others. This also suggests that those with large amounts of free time such as retirees need to fill their time with meaningful activities. In a nutshell, spend your time purposefully.
What do you think? Would you rather have more than 4 hours of free time daily? Or less than 2 hours? Let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to our blog for more enriching content such as this. Thank you for reading and until next time, BESTech remains your BEST bet.