The Real Reason Leisure Time Is So Important

Maybe you think you should be working and staying productive all day, every day. However, that can quickly lead to burn out. We all need to take time to kick back and relax. Leisure time is seen as so important that this year marks the first World Leisure Day on April 16. According to the World Leisure Organization, it was created to "to reinforce leisure as a social right and its importance in daily life, as well as to expand its possibilities of manifestation and promote reflection on the accesses and barriers that still exist for many people around the world."

Leisure time is time spent doing an activity simply because you enjoy it. The Rocky Mountain MS Center gives the example of cooking. "Consider the difference between cooking for the fun of it, and cooking because there's a family counting on you for dinner. Sure, there's a meal after both, but one's purely for your enjoyment, while the other's clearly an item from the to-do list." Don't push it off as something that you can skip if your day gets busy. You should build leisure time into your life intentionally, and it should be seen as a reward for getting your work done. 

Using leisure time effectively will literally make you happier. According to a scientific study at Taylor & Francis, those who engage in leisure activities have less psychological distress and feel healthier.

Leisure time can actually make you better at work

Spending time on enjoyable activities might sound like it could take away from work success. However, the opposite may instead be true. A research article in the Journal of Career Assessment confirmed that focusing on happiness first can improve work outcomes. That should reinforce the idea that leisure time spent gardening, doing puzzles, camping, etc. isn't wasted time, and could actually end up helping you at work.

Just having spare time isn't the same as using that time effectively. James Wallman, author of Time and How to Spend It, told CNBC Make It you should focus on using leisure time on activities that get you into a state of flow — "being in the present zone [and] really enjoying yourself." He has a series of questions for those wondering how to best use leisure time, which boil down to: will it help me connect to the world around me, will it help me get away from my devices, will it make memories?

Another thing to consider in how to best use your leisure time is how serious you're taking the activity. Don't put pressure on yourself with something that's supposed to bring you joy. In a research article from Journal of Vocational Behavior (via Science Direct), if your leisure activity is too close to what you do for work or if you take it too seriously, it can have a negative impact on your life.