Let me guess … You’re busy. Your calendar is full. You have to get out the door to work in the morning and then when you get home, you have to eat, walk the dog, do the dishes, hit the gym, go to your meet-up group, answer emails. And if you have any time left, you grab a screen out of force of habit and pick one of the many mind-numbing apps available to scroll away the next few minutes or hours of your life until sleep.
Let me take another guess? Being constantly busy is sucking the life out of you. And scrolling during what free time you have doesn’t leave you feeling rejuvenated. Countless articles talk about this — about how we’re working ourselves to death and how screen time is changing us. But let’s not focus on the problem here. Let’s focus on the remedy. That remedy is seven letters long and it’s called leisure.
Leisure is free time. It’s time set aside to not be busy or distracted. It’s a time to be whole and focused rather than fragmented with our attention split between several apps and browsers. Leisure is intentional. Where boredom gnaws at you, leisure refreshes you because it promotes reflection and allows you to look at things with new eyes.
Studies show that leisure time spent in physical activity helps people live longer, that leisure activities help promote social relationships and better health in older adults, and that adults who participate in leisure activities have a higher quality of life. More people are talking about the importance of play or unstructured time for both kids and adults. The Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper wrote a book called Leisure, the Basis of Culture in which he shows how cultures thrive when people take the time to be not busy, to be silent, to reflect, and to worship God.
If you can count on one hand the number of times you were silent and reflective recently, you’re not alone. But, there are ways to change that, and to start forming small habits that help you live longer, with a higher quality of life, and repair culture to boot!
First, what does incorporating time for leisure look like in a practical way? And second, how can you fit leisure in when you can’t even fit in a dentist appointment until two weeks from Thursday?
These activities will help your free time become more refreshing and more like leisure:
- taking a walk in a local park or going for a hike and noticing the beauty of nature
- reading a good book
- setting aside time to pray and read Scripture
The first baby step to “fitting leisure in” is to choose a way to practice leisure and just do it. Does taking a walk at a local park appeal to you more than journaling? Then decide that instead of walking the dog around the neighborhood tomorrow, you’re going to walk in the park. Does reading a good book appeal to you? Then plan a trip to the library or download a new book on your Kindle, and read that tomorrow instead of scrolling on your phone. Try a classic or a spiritual work that you haven’t read to help foster reflection. And if you plan to get together with friends on the weekends, suggest activities like plays or concerts or museums that might give you more to reflect on and deepen your conversations.
Switching your mindset from its default state of business and distraction to one that prioritizes leisure is hard. Allowing yourself time for silence and reflection might even be uncomfortable for a while. But give it time. Work on incorporating a spirit of leisure into your life, at least this summer, and see what happens.
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