Ah, free time.
Do you dream about having long, lazy days to do anything your heart desires? We’re all busy and life is so hectic that sometimes that alone, uninterrupted time can feel like an unattainable luxury. But it turns out, when it comes to free time, there can be too much of a good thing and that too much free time can be just as bad as not having enough.
Cassie Holmes, a social psychologist at UCLA who studies the effects of free time on happiness levels, led a team of researchers to determine the ideal amount of free time that gives people an overall high level of life satisfaction. They looked at data from more than 35 thousand Americans that included information about the average amount of time they had for leisure activities and compared that to their overall satisfaction with life. The team found that “being time poor” makes us more depressed, stressed, and emotionally exhausted, but having too much of that time “undermines one’s sense of purpose.”
But they discovered there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle, concluding that people who are most satisfied with life have somewhere between two and five hours of free time a day. Those with less than two hours were more stressed and those with more than five hours also reported not being satisfied. So it seems when we have too little of a good thing, we get burned out and unhappy, but on the flip side, if we have too much of a good thing, we may start seeing it as nothing special so it doesn’t bring the joy it does when it’s in shorter supply.
I feel like if I had more than five hours a day, I’d spend it wisely and be happy about it, how about you?