Leisure is a super important part of life and health. Creating more leisure in your life and doing things simply for the enjoyment they bring can prevent a burnout and ensure overall happiness. But you would be surprised how hard this is for a lot of people!!
Say it with me: “Leisure is not a dirty word.” And it’s not just for tacky suits from the 1970s.
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Finding Leisure in Your Life
Leisure isn’t something we tend to prize and has been getting a bad rap, at least since 1899 when economist Thorsen Veblen wrote the book The Theory of the Leisure Class. The book acknowledged the people who were high enough status that didn’t have to engage in drudge work and could instead amass wealth and spend their money on things that don’t matter, like luxury vehicles. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about leisure as in the flip side of work–doing things simply for the enjoyment they bring. Just as things can spark joy according to Marie Kondo, so can activities.
I’m not talking about hedonistic pleasure, although, hey, there’s a time and a place for everything. I’m talking about engaging in something that fills you up in some way, and because you enjoy it, it helps you be in– and stay in–the moment. And being present is so helpful for keeping you from hitting the brink of burnout. When you’re in the moment, everything is fine. There’s no rehashing the past or fearing the future. It’s like your worry muscles get to go cool out in a hammock while your being can refresh itself with a little play.
You know what? That’s what leisure is. It’s the adult version of play.
Strengthen Your Leisure Skills
It’s not easy to pursue leisure these days, because there’s a lot to worry about and we live in a culture that prizes productivity. It can feel like you’re being naughty if you step away from those things and just enjoy yourself.
My husband calls this ability to step away leisure skills. And I do believe that in today’s world for many adults leisure is a skill that has to be practiced.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but leisure is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, Oscar Wilde said, “To do nothing is the most difficult thing in the world.” And this is coming from a man who spent two years in prison doing hard labor for being gay, so let’s assume he knows what he’s talking about!
It is hard to step off the track of being productive. Especially the older you get and the more responsibility you have. I love my work as a ghostwriter. I love podcasting and writing my own content. I love my kids, my dog, my husband, and our home and I love taking care of all those facets of my life. But it can feel like there’s always something I should be doing that I’m not doing. So it can take some RESOLVE for me to step away and strengthen my leisure skills. But they are really important skills to have, Especially when it comes to keeping you back from the edge of burnout. And that means, it’s kind of like your better-person duty to go do something just for the fun of it!
I’ve talked about embracing downtime before. Calling it “strengthening your leisure skills” is just a different way to think about. Taking some downtime might have negative connotations in your mind, like you might on some level equate it with being lazy. Maybe saying you’re honing will help do the things that help you cool out more than thinking about it as downtime.
It means you’ve got honor that desire for lying in bed and reading, or devoting time to a hobby–which isn’t always easy to do because it can feel like there are so many other things you should be doing.
Why are leisure skills so important? Well, without them, you tend to seek out things that are only valuable because they keep you busy, and some of that stuff can be pretty unhealthy. It might be relationships with dramatic people. Engaging in gossip. Watching the news constantly. Not giving yourself the chance to ever feel your feelings, how your body physically feels. These are all stressors that you have control over–but if you don’t challenge yourself to step away from them, you might not do it.
A really important part of leisure is that you get to decide how you’ll spend it. BUT, that means you also HAVE to decide how you’ll spend it. Otherwise you might say you’re going to spend a couple hours on Saturday morning doing something fun, but then get sucked in to cleaning out the refrigerator or scrolling through Instagram and whiling away your time on something you didn’t consciously decide to do. Which means you’ll just feel gypped later. And feeling gypped is not relaxing. It’s irritating. Maybe even upsetting.
Examples of Leisure Activities
Going on a picnic, or a hike. Reading a book that you love. Playing frisbee with the dog. Playing a game with your kid. A game of solitaire. Knitting. Your favorite part of gardening (not the parts you hate). Going on a bike ride. Taking a nap. Deciding to lie on the couch and do nothing at all. Lying on the floor and watching the ceiling fan. Doing a puzzle. Cooking when no one is hungry. Doing anything creative.
What’s Not Leisure
Running errands. Any household chore, unless you legitimately love that chore. Catching up on emails. Aimlessly farting around on your phone (unless you decide that you’re going to spend your leisure time aimlessly farting around on your phone!).
Have Fun with Life and Family
The other night my family and I were forced into some leisure when the remnants of hurricane Isaias blew over a tree that knocked out our power. My daughter played a board game — Blokus, for your board game aficionados — then she made a vision board. My son just lay on the couch and got entranced by the flickering of the candles we lit. We had the windows wide open and we listened to the crickets, something we don’t typically hear because we’re running the AC. It made a stressful situation a chance to pause and rejuvenate for all of us. Until my husband realized we had to do some adulting and take all the food out of the fridge and freezer, and then we saw how dirty the fridge was… that was not leisure, haha, but it was kind of gratifying and now we have a nice clean fridge.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is, well, to enjoy a leisure pursuit today. What comes to mind as something you can do strictly for the enjoyment of it? Snap a pic and post it on Instagram and tag me @katehanleyauthor.