Whether you have little or a lot of free time (for example, if you are already retired, unemployed…) it is important that you know how to manage it to avoid some of the associated health problems (be careful, too much!) : stress, anxiety, depression, etc. We give you the keys to achieve it.
We live in a fast-paced and demanding society.
From the moment we get out of bed until we go back to bed, everything is in a hurry: getting to work on time, picking up the children or grandchildren from school, doing the shopping and other day-to-day tasks, doing the housework…
At this point, no one doubts the serious consequences that this hectic pace has for our health and state of mind: stress, anxiety, fatigue, depression, sleep disorders, etc.
In addition, all this leaves very little free time for leisure and to “enjoy life.”
Who has not said to himself at some time: “I wish I had more free time! I would do many more things that interest me”. You may even think that if you had more time for yourself, your health would improve because you could exercise more, take better care of yourself, etc.
Well, what you are about to discover may break your schemes…
What happens when you have too much free time?
Some researchers wanted to determine how long leisure time should last so that, instead of anxiety, stress or even depression -when it is too little-, at the end of the day it only brings well-being. (one)
To do this, they had 6,000 participants who were divided into 3 groups and asked to visualize themselves having a fixed amount of free time per day for 6 months: 15 minutes for those in the first group, 3 and a half hours for those in the second, and 7 hours for those of the third. In addition, they had to indicate what their degree of happiness and satisfaction would be in each case.
At the end of the experiment, only those in the second group stated that they would feel well-being, since they considered that 3 and a half hours dedicated to leisure were more than enough. On the contrary, those who only had 15 minutes indicated that they would feel too stressed by having so little free time, while those in the third group said that with those 7 hours free they would also feel that “they were being less productive”, which caused them some anxiety.
You are probably thinking that the findings of this study are not surprising, since the difference between 15 minutes and 7 hours of free time is simply abysmal.
What should be left with is that this research allowed us to determine the amount of free time that it is interesting to have in order to obtain greater well-being. And this oscillates between 2 and 5 hours a day.
Although there was another even more important fact that those same researchers established:
Not any activity is worth
In another experiment from that same study, participants were asked to visualize that they had 3.5 or 7 hours of free time a day. But they also had to indicate how they would feel if those hours were dedicated to “productive” activities (for example, doing physical exercise or practicing the hobby they like the most) or “unproductive” (that is, they do not have a specific objective, such as watching television or consulting social networks).
Well, on this occasion, well-being did not depend so much on the duration of free time, but on the type of activity that was carried out.
In this way, the researchers concluded that with productive activities, well-being is always experienced. Even if the 5 hour limit is exceeded, the recommended maximum.
When free time becomes the new routine
There are certain occasions in which free time goes from occupying just a few hours to becoming the general tone of the day. This happens, for example, in retirement, in a prolonged leave, in case of unemployment…
Depending on the personal situation and perspective of each one, this lack of obligations and plans -and even motivations- can make the person almost want a more stressful, more exciting life.
What to do then?
Although it is difficult, the key is knowing how to adapt to this new context. Take advantage of your circumstances, even if they are not very flattering.
For example, there are people who, when they lose their job, instead of letting themselves be carried away by despair, spend time traveling or finally doing those activities that, due to lack of time, they had always had to postpone. And some of them also have a favorable impact on their health, as happens to those who decide to start exercising or even join the gym.
There are also those who invest that time thinking about their professional future: they enroll in language courses to increase their job prospects or they choose to reinvent themselves and make a 180-degree turn in their professional career (and, incidentally, their lives).
Or that they directly take the opportunity to rest a bit and take the situation with philosophy.
And all this also happens with retirees.
How to face retirement with renewed spirits
Many people, when they retire, can experience a certain feeling of emptiness. Whether right after retiring or after a time in which euphoria reigned first, sometimes the crushing routine ends up taking over and leaves the person with a feeling of restlessness that is difficult to calm.
Sometimes this new situation makes them think that they have reached a point in their life in which they no longer have anything else to offer. In which all that remains is to let the days go by, all exactly the same, without anything motivating them.
Some even begin to go out less and less, closing in on themselves.
In these cases, in addition, together with mental health problems (anxiety, depression…) other problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle appear that can seriously compromise health. In fact, these two factors are closely related, as you can read in this news.
If you identify with this situation, I ask you to try to change your perspective. And it doesn’t matter if you are 20, 40 or 80 years old, it is never too late to discover new things!
In addition, as the years go by, it is good to carry out stimulating activities to delay the cognitive deterioration of age. (2)
And among those activities there is room for absolutely everything:
- do crosswords, sudoku…
- Learn a new language or play an instrument.
- Sign up for dance classes (an exceptional practice for the body and mind! You can read more about it here).
- Cultivate your own garden, which offers more benefits for your health than you imagine (discover them by clicking on this link).
- Enroll in associations of people who share common interests, in volunteer groups…
It is you who sets the limit to what you want to do, because the problem of lack of time no longer exists. Now he has all the world!
So now you know: whatever free time you have, try to enjoy it to the fullest. Of course, remember that the key to improving your well-being is to carry out productive activities like the ones you have just seen.
Finally, I invite you to share this text so that it reaches as many people as possible. We are still immersed in a pandemic in which mental health problems do not stop growing (anxiety, fear, depression…), so it is necessary to have the right tools to deal with them.