In the last decade, there has been an emergence of the “makeover” phenomenon. Generally the focus of makeovers (on television or for radio contests, for example) is on improving appearance or image. For example, makeovers often involve changing one’s physical appearance with cosmetic treatments, a new hairstyle, and/or a new and improved wardrobe. Other makeovers focus on renovating rooms or homes that result in an improved image of the living space. However, a makeover can also involve a transformation that goes deeper than appearance or image.
At one point or another, most of us have probably thought that our leisure or the manner in which we spend our free time needs to be transformed or changed. Perhaps you think about it when you experience periods of boredom or feel a pang of envy at the hobbies or pursuits of others that seem interesting or appear to be personally fulfilling for them. You may feel frustrated that so many things get in the way (e.g., work, family obligations) that you’ll never have time for yourself. You may experience a life transition (e.g., parenthood, retirement, moving to a new community, developing a chronic illness) that causes a shift in the time you have available for leisure or what you may be able to do (e.g., physical limitations, financial limitations).
Unfortunately, very few of us are educated about leisure – why it is important to have leisure; the ways in which leisure can meet various needs we have (e.g., for social contact, for challenge, for relaxation); how to identify the barriers that may get in the way of our leisure and how to overcome these. And, as schools continue to make cuts to physical education, art programs, and music programs, the opportunities for all children to develop interests in and skills for various leisure pursuits is put in jeopardy. Without this “education,” it is difficult to know how to make changes or transformation to one’s leisure.
Posts on Monday will be dedicated to leisure education. In the recreation and leisure studies field, leisure education has been defined as a process whereby individuals acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that motivate and facilitate one’s ability to improve the quality of life in leisure.
Understanding the Role of Leisure in Your Life
Hopefully, since you’re reading this blog, you already have a belief that leisure is important in your life or that it, at the very least, plays some important roles (e.g., maintains your sanity, serves as an escape, brings you pleasure). Understanding the value of leisure in one’s life is an important first step in transforming one’s leisure. There is an extensive body of literature that identifies various outcomes/benefits associated with engaging in leisure. I have identified a few of the personal and social benefits here:
- A variety of leisure pursuits (e.g., physical activity, social leisure) has been linked with positive physical and mental health outcomes. In particular, considerable research has found that leisure can be a buffer to stress and also used as a way to cope with stress.
- Leisure also contributes to identity development because leisure is a context in which individuals of various ages have the freedom to explore, experiment, or “try on” different roles. Some people feel particularly connected to the identities associated with leisure pursuits – they may identify themselves as a “runner” or a “musician”. Having an identity associated with leisure can be extremely valuable during times when other valued identities are shifted or lost (e.g., loss of job or retirement that result in either the temporary or permanent end of a work identity).
- Leisure can help with academic achievement. Research has found that students involved in extracurricular activities (e.g., sports, performing arts, volunteering, and school involvement) performed better in school than those children who were not involved in extracurricular activities.
- Recently, we’re seeing leisure linked with happiness. Gretchen Rubin, author of the popular self-help book, The Happiness Project, devoted two chapters to leisure-related themes. One chapter was titled “Be Serious About Play” and another, “Make Time for Friends” focused on relationships/friendships as an important source of happiness.
- Leisure participation can enhance family cohesion and family functioning.
In Canada, a “Benefits Hub” was been created that showcases research evidence of the various personal, social, economic, and environmental benefits of recreation and leisure. If you’re interested, you can explore further some of the links there.
Understanding the value of leisure is important because without that understanding, it is difficult to make leisure a priority or to give it focus in your life!
Assessing How You Spend Your Time
A good place to start in transforming your leisure is to gain a good understanding of how your time is currently being spent. Often, people have a sense of where there time is going, but when they actually pay attention and record it, it can be eye opening. For example, you may think that you watch about an hour of television a night, but when you actually record it, you learn almost 2 hours a night is devoted to television. Or, perhaps you have the impression that you are only spending 30 minutes a day doing house cleaning when it fact, it is much longer. Understanding what you are doing, when, and for how long is an important first step in making decisions about leisure time.
You can download a Personal Time Diary, print it off, and complete it for a few days (ideally, for one week – it should only take you 15 minutes each day to quickly jot down your day’s activities). This will give you a picture of where your time is going. It will also give you a sense of how much leisure time you have, when you seem to have it, and what types of things you’re doing.
A few questions you can ask yourself when you’re done with the time diary:
- Do I like what I see?
- Is there balance between my work/obligatory activities (paid work, house work, personal care) and leisure time that I enjoy either for myself or with my family?
- Are the activities I am doing during my free time satisfying for me?
- Is there balance between active and passive activities? Am I getting enough physical activity?