Sam recently shared an article on the links between too much time and mental health, with the comment that this was not her problem. My immediate thought was “Ha! I’m willing to test this hypothesis!” The study looked at perceptions of well-being and how that rose or fell depending on the amount of free time, controlling for scenarios such as depression, which might leave a person with too much free time.
The basic result was that the sense of well-being rose with about 2 hours of free time, but dropped if the person had more than about 5 hours of free time. But, what counts as free time matters. The sense of well-being came primarily with productive free time, for meaningful activities such as hobbies, social activities, etc. “Wasted” time (undefined in the article, but for me it means things like doomscrolling, social media, and playing computer games) does not have the same effect.
So what is my takeaway on this? I’m mostly doing okay with making time for things I enjoy. I get enough fitness activities to be healthy. If anything, I need to start paying more attention to possible overuse injuries. Right now, I am dealing with what appears to be swimmers elbow. This may be a perfect time to rebalance my activities a bit, especially since the weather is cooling so I will be swimming outdoors less over the next few months.
My rebalance will probably involve more horse time. My daughter is looking seriously at a younger horse for her own riding, since she likes to jump and Fancy, though still healthy and eager, is 19. Like me, she is getting to an age where we need to pay more attention to the risk of injury.
She is still great for flat work though, which suits me fine. Until now, I have been riding about once a week so that my daughter could get as much time in as possible. However, I will likely increase that to two or even three times a week over the next little while. Will I ever reach the 5-6 rides a week that would be optimal for her? Probably not. That is a big time commitment, and would move this leisure activity into the category of becoming a real chore. Besides, as we continue to age, we are both going to need more recovery time between outings.
And I’ll need that recovery time to do all the other things that are meaningful to me – gardening, elder care, cooking, sewing, spending time at my cottage property, possibly even some home renovations. More and more lately, I have been thinking about retirement. Unlike Sam, I don’t find my job as fulfilling as I once did, and I am definitely not as busy. Time spent on work increasingly feels like something that is crowding out the things I enjoy, and I work hard to cram them all in before or after work. Maybe my sense well-being will will improve if I make more free time.
Hmm… this post has taken a strange turn. How about you readers? Are getting enough free time to make you happy? If not, what might you do to adjust?
Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa (among many other activities).