With all the distractions in our world, the opportunity to unplug, unwind and recharge beckons this time of year. Here our dynamic parenting and relationship expert, Dr. Miranda Fernande Walichowski weighs in on how to make the most of your leisure time
Being called a gentleman or a lady of leisure connotes something that could make one blush or feel criticized for not living up to one’s full potential. Some of my coaching clients, especially those who are professionals and/or mothers of young children, are the first to repel the concept of leisure. Increasingly, individuals believe that partaking in leisure makes them less able at what they do. The irony is that when we reject leisure, we forsake becoming our best self and our ability to create deeper connections with others.
The concept of leisure is one that has been marred and replaced by busy-ness. Busy-ness is the new status symbol of choice for many. Busy-ness has become equated with importance. As individuals embrace busy-ness they have interchanged the concept of leisure with idleness.
However, the historicity of leisure is different. The English language has much Greco-Roman influence. The English word leisure comes from the Latin licēre coupled with the French leisir, which means “to be permitted or allowed.” Activity carried out in the spirit of freedom, by choice, and for the sake of partaking in the activity itself, is considered leisure. In fact, philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle saw it as a duty of some to engage in leisure. For in leisure is where creation, ingenuity, insight, clarity, and understanding happens. Leisure was reserved for the aristocracy. The opposite of leisure was to labor, toil.
Often, we just need the opportunity to reframe the concepts of leisure and idleness. James Terry White, poet, publisher, and Renaissance man helps clarify what idleness is. “It is not necessary for a man to be actively bad in order to make a failure in life; simple inaction will accomplish it. Nature has everywhere written her protest against idleness; everything which ceases to struggle, which remains inactive, rapidly deteriorates. It is the struggle toward an ideal, the constant effort to get higher and further, which develops manhood and character.”
Idleness is not leisure. Activity, when engaged in by choice and with intent can be elevated from idleness to leisure. For example, watching TV or surfing the Internet if done by choice with consciousness can be classified as leisure. When those activities are carried out by default, out of boredom, or because one was drawn into them unconsciously, then they are idle activities. Idleness creates a sense of mismanaged time or some degree of guilt.
Contemporary research findings on the concept of adult play have revived the importance of leisure. Dr. Stuart Brown, a researcher at The National Institute of Play, has studied play and reports that play, is not only for joy and energy, but it is deeply involved with human development and intelligence. Findings in neuroscience have confirmed that the mind needs time to disconnect to process information, to create, to innovate. Leisure time, which is associated with play, leaves one rejuvenated, inspired, feeling creative and introspective.
Where does the busy individual find time for leisure? According to the most recent American Time Use Survey in 2014, by the Department of Labor Statistics, Americans spend about five hours in leisure on a daily basis. Some individuals may feel incredulous about those data. Here is how the time is distributed: two hours and 49 minutes watching TV, 38 minutes socializing and communicating, 27 minutes playing electronic games and on the computer, 19 minutes reading, 18 minutes other leisure activities, 17 minutes relaxing and thinking, and 17 minutes participating in sports, exercise, and recreation. If it is true that Americans have five hours of leisure on a daily basis, we would be wise to ensure that our downtime does not become idle time.
We are relational beings, and we benefit from including our loved-ones in our leisure activities. Here are seven suggestions for those seeking a relational approach to leisure:
- Try parallel play. Parallel play is what young children engage in before they know how to interact. For example, two toddlers may be in a sandbox and each playing the same thing, but not fully engaging with each other.
- Do something together in nature. For example, hiking, boating, a picnic provide a backdrop for leisure and play.
- Play sports. The intent should be to enjoying the activity and the company and not focus on winning.
- Travel and explore. These can be most enjoyable when shared with loved ones.
- Be a human-being and not a human-doing. Just be and let be. For example, lie on the grass and gaze at the stars, together.
- Learn from children as you interact with them. Children have clarity on the purpose of play. They do not have agendas. Children do not focus on the past or future but know how to be in the present moment.
- Spend time with older individuals. Those who are older are wiser no longer live life as if it were an emergency. They can teach us what truly matters and how to focus on that.
So, carry on, play, and engage in a little more leisure. Your relationships, your quality of life, your ability to contribute, make that your pleasure-filled responsibility.