Can Too Much Free Time Cause Depression?

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This blog will cover topics like the consequences of sitting idle, ways to be more productive, its benefits, and frequently asked questions.

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Can Too Much Free Time Cause Depression?

Yes, too much free time can also be a significant contributor to depression. 

Lack of leisure time can contribute to feelings of overwork, exhaustion, and burnout. Normally, you are not as cheerful and excitedly anticipate time off. But what if we do not even know what to do with our spare time, or whether we have enough of it?

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton College and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) discovered that being on either end of the spectrum is bad for our mental health and feeling of well-being.

According to study author Cassie Contingent Holmes, Ph.D., director of marketing and behavioral decision making at UCLA Anderson School of Management, this research contradicts the common belief that more is better.

“Up to a point, you observe the association between the quantity of time you have and satisfaction levels off,” she explains.

Given the pandemic’s schedule and time-related shifts, finding our own sweet spots amid too much and too little free time may be more important than ever. In early September, the research was released in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 

Greater free time does not always imply more happiness.

Mogilner Holmes and colleagues used two surveys and two studies to evaluate the relationship between spare time and pleasure and wellbeing.

They began by reviewing poll answers from over 21,000 Americans who replied to questions on how they spend their time. Participants provided thorough accounts of what they did in the previous 24 hours, including how much time they spent on each task and their overall sense of well-being.

Researchers discovered that free time and happiness were favorably related until around two days of free time, and then began to drop.

The researchers next examined data obtained from over 13,000 working Americans, who were asked about their leisure time and also their general feeling of well-being. Again, they discovered that having more downtime was advantageous only to a point. More time did not lead to more happiness.

Survey results, while valuable, sometimes have limits. As a result, they devised online studies to see whether they could replicate the findings.

They enlisted the help of around 6,000 people, who were tasked with imagining various lots of free leisure during the day. Throughout, participants were asked to indicate how they would think in these circumstances in order to estimate their likely level of happiness.

Participants in the second experiment were also instructed to envision spending their spare time on either “useful” or “unproductive” activities (such as working out, hobbies, or jogging) (like watching television or using the computer).

Again, having far too much free time was equally damaging to happiness as not having enough. Those at the bottom were anxious because they didn’t have time to do activities that filled out their lives or provided them a sense of purpose.

Those with more free time, on the other hand, were concerned about not being active enough. People who scored midway in the center were ultimately happier.

However, the second study revealed to researchers that engaging in “useful” activities, such as playing an instrument or watching fitness videos that make you feel good, made people feel better even when they had more than enough spare time. This was not true for individuals who used it for “unproductive” purposes.

Striking a balance is essential

According to Mogilner Holmes, the data reveals two significant forces. There are two types of time effects: “too little time impact” and “too much taper fade.” The former is motivated by stress, while the latter is motivated by a feeling of purpose.

“It’s a basic discovery,” she adds, referring to her own interest.

Mogilner Holmes has days when she wonders if she would be happy if she just stopped everything. “As someone with a full-time job, two small children, a spouse who also works, and trying to keep healthy,” she says. However, the data implies that the extremes are unlikely.

“It’s about day in and day out,” she continues. Instead of addressing time with an all-or-nothing perspective, people should aim to balance all of their tasks and leisure time across a longer period of time.”

The Goldilocks principle, that you may have that much of a good thing, has been used in domains ranging from astrobiology to economics. It now appears that it may even regulate our leisure time.

Researchers discovered that while rates of subjective well-being initially climb as free time increases, the pattern does not always maintain for extremely high levels of leisure.

The researchers discovered that while subjective well-being increased with the amount of free time up to roughly two hours, it began to decline after it exceeded five hours after crowdsourcing comments on which activities would be associated with free time and then calculating this time for participants.

Meanwhile, data from the National Study of the Changing Workforce, conducted between 1992 and 2008, revealed that having more free time was no longer associated with greater subjective wellbeing after a certain point, but it did not drop – possibly because few people report having more than five hours of free time per day.

According to the researchers, the American Time Use Survey indicated that how people used their leisure time was important.

The researchers discovered that while subjective well-being increased with the amount of free time up to roughly two hours, it began to decline after it exceeded five hours after crowdsourcing comments on which activities would be associated with free time and then calculating this time for participants.

Meanwhile, data from the National Study of the Changing Workforce, conducted between 1992 and 2008, revealed that having more free time was no longer associated with greater subjective wellbeing after a certain point, but it did not drop – possibly because few people report having more than five hours of free time per day.

According to the researchers, the American Time Use Survey indicated that how people used their leisure time was important.

According to the team, the extent of the impacts was tiny, and the ideal quantities of free time were imprecise.

Nonetheless, they stated that the research revealed that those who believe they have too little leisure time should not abandon all of their responsibilities, but rather strive to find a couple of leisure hours every day. Meanwhile, individuals who have free time should aim to fill it with meaning, whether it’s through engaging with or doing anything constructive.

Andrew Oswald, a University of Warwick professor of economics and behavioral science who was not involved in the study, praised the findings.

“This is useful research because it gives all kinds of statistical proof for a very intuitive idea: humans appreciate having spare ‘discretionary’ time in their day – for leisure, household chores, hobbies, and so on – but not too much of it,” he added. “It’s a Goldilocks result – delivered on time.”

How to use your free time constructively?

There are several sorts of hobbies; some are just joyful and self-soothing, while others assist us in living our beliefs or completing a job or objective.

Activities include:

  • Practice yoga
  • Visit a museum.
  • You should clean your house.
  • Create a to-do list.
  • Get a book to read.
  • Create a life purpose statement.
  • Cook dinner while watching television
  • Crafts and arts
  • Meditation
  • Go for a lengthy drive.
  • The dog should be walked.
  • Perform voluntary work
  • Send someone a thank-you note.
  • Spend time with your buddies.
  • Pray for the well-being of others.
  • Consider getting a massage.
  • Contact a member of your support team.
  • Listen to classical music or audiobooks.

So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know what to do, try something different or one of the above-mentioned hobbies. When you take time off, it’s all too simple to spend the entire day in your jammies. So remember to keep yourself active!

Conclusion

Being busy has become the norm, and if you have further free time, it doesn’t stay long and is quickly consumed. With a world full of people who believe that having any amount of spare time is a bad thing and every moment must be filled with something, we find ourselves in a difficult situation.

Continuous quality improvement is not an aim in itself, but rather a means to better workers’ lives, the sustainability of businesses, social cohesion, and economic progress. 

Continued productivity increase is also required for market and economic growth. Not just that but your mental health depends a lot on your lifestyle!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can Too Much Free Time  Cause Depression?

Can too much free time make you depressed?

Yes, having a lot of free time can make you feel bored, anxious, and even depressed. It can also make you follow unhealthy habits and lose discipline

What happens when you have too much free time?

When you have too much free time, it can lead to negative effects on your overall well-being.

How does free time affect mental health?

Free time is important for a person to function well and stay physically and mentally well. Very less amount of free time can make you feel stressed and lose productivity, whereas too much free time can also have a negative impact, so one needs to have a moderate amount of free time. 

How long is too much free time?

Too much free time can take a toll on your well-being. A study found that more than five hours of free time can cause more stress and other negative effects. 

Are people with more free time happier?

Research has found that people with more free time usually have a better sense of well-being, but this is only true to a certain extent.

Can having too much free time cause anxiety?

Yes, having too much free time can lead to anxiety as when you are free for a long time, you start to overthink, spend too much time ruminating, and spiral which worsens anxiety. 

References

https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_emp/@ifp_skills/documents/publication/wcms_103457.pdf
https://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/20-productive-ways-to-use-your-free-time.html
https://itsoktotalk.in/find-help/
https://www.verywellhealth.com/too-much-free-time-researchers-5201270
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/sep/09/study-links-too-much-free-time-to-lower-sense-of-wellbeing

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