6 Ways to Feel Happier With Your Free Time, According to an Expert
If you’re feeling resentful about your lack of downtime, Dr. Holmes says that, instead of focusing on the time you don’t have, aim to spend the time you do have more strategically. Organizing your days to include less of what hampers your happiness, more of what matters, and just enough time to do nothing at all may help you feel less strapped. In other words, with a few schedule adjustments, you might be able to find your downtime sweet spot. Here are five relatively simple ways to start working toward a life of (sufficient) leisure. 1. Take stock of your current free time.“Discretionary time is time spent how you want, not how you have to,” Dr. Holmes explains—so not just the hours you aren’t working or sleeping. To see how much free time you actually have, grab a piece of paper or pull up a notes app for some simple math. Start by calculating any breaks or free time you have in a given day. Maybe you woke up early and squeezed in a 30-minute yoga session. At work, perhaps you took a 15-minute walk for coffee with an office buddy. If you listened to a favorite podcast or called your sister to dish about your day during your commute home, chalk up those minutes too. And it’s worth noting the minutes don’t need to be perfect to count. Was your 15-minute walk interrupted by a phone call from your demanding boss? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t count the time if you enjoyed it overall. “Two hours sounds like a luxury for some of us, but if you actually look at your day and calculate, you’ll see that it adds up,” Dr. Holmes says. “You might find that you’re already close to two hours of time you wouldn’t have wanted to spend any other way.” Recognizing that this sweet spot is within reach without having to make any drastic life changes is important, because knowing that something is achievable creates a sense of hope rather than hopelessness, Dr. Holmes says. 2. Try to cut the fluff.If your discretionary time typically falls short of two hours, Dr. Holmes suggests hunting for waste. Specifically, you’re looking for minutes (and sometimes hours) that you spend in ways that don’t feel fulfilling. Unfortunately, work and commuting take up a big chunk of time for a lot of people. Though those activities probably can’t be ditched, you might be able to at least make them more satisfying by scheduling in joy, Dr. Holmes says. (Here are more of her tips for a less depleting workweek). With everything else, she recommends looking for what you can cull. “One way to increase your available time is to reduce the amount of time you spend scrolling social media,” Dr. Holmes writes in Happier Hour. “This can lessen how much you enviously ruminate on all the glamorous (and cherry-picked) ways others are spending their time, for example. It will also free up actual minutes.” You don’t need to abstain from your apps altogether, but you could try keeping your phone in a drawer or another room so it’s less tempting, say, or setting a 30-minute social media limit for yourself in the evening—whatever feels doable to you. The goal isn’t to feel bad about how you spend time; it’s to look for minutes you can reclaim.3. Outsource wherever possible.For all the blech activities you must get done, Dr. Holmes recommends outsourcing wherever you can. If it’s financially feasible for you, swap a supermarket trip for a grocery delivery (make sure to tip very well), a time-consuming dinner prep with a meal delivery service, or another night of solo parenting for a sitter, all of which could lighten your load just enough to take a breath. “Time is a resource that matters. If you have the means, research shows that investing in time-saving products and services is worth it,” Dr. Holmes says. And the results from the study she’s referring to hold across income level, age, gender, marital status, and whether or not there are kids at home. That is, people who spend money to save time are happier than those who don’t.