Engineering 101

Think leisure is a waste? Your mental health may suffer

Here it is, your permission to have fun. If you feel that leisure is wasteful and unproductive, those beliefs may lead to less happiness and higher levels of stress and depression. In a series of studies, researchers examined the effects of believing that productivity is the ultimate goal and time’s a-wasting if you’re just having fun. The study was published online Aug. 21, 2021 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

People who most strongly agreed with this belief did not enjoy leisure time as much and reported poorer mental health outcomes, according to Selin Malkoc, co-author of the study and associate professor of marketing at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business

So if you fall into the productivity only trap, leisure can be framed as having some kind of productive goal, that helps people who think leisure is wasteful get some of the same benefits.

The negative view of leisure is not just an American issue. One study, which compared people in the United States, India and France, found that the French were less likely than those in the U.S. and India to believe leisure was wasteful – as is consistent with cultural stereotypes. But for those in France who did disdain leisure, the bad effects were the same. The researchers were struck by how the negative views of leisure affected enjoyment of anything fun, no matter the situation or how short the leisure activity was.

For those who believe leisure is wasteful, “it may be helpful to think about the productive ways that individual leisure activities can serve their long-term goals. In other words, connect each leisure activity to something you want to accomplish.

Original Release: Eureka Alert 

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