What Free Time?
Last time we talked about post-pandemic time warping’:

“All of a sudden everything went on stop.… We could not be the people we were used to being in the world anymore,” says health psychologist Alison Holman of the University of California, Irvine.

“People who experienced temporal disintegration … got stuck in that past experience. They couldn’t put together the flow from past to present to future,” she says.

Now we have ‘time poverty’ too:

Defined as the chronic feeling of having too many things to do and not enough time in which to do them, ‘time poverty’ is on the rise. Research shows most people feel persistently ‘time poor’, and that time poverty can have severe and wide-reaching impacts, including lower wellbeing, physical health and productivity.

Taken together—people having trouble getting moving at the same time they feel time deprived—is something that a lot of people are having to slog through right now.

Not everyone, but nearly 50% of Americans are feeling time poor, leaving them stressed, tired, and depressed.

So much for free time. And yet, a new study found that not too much, not too little, but just the right amount free time is really good for us.

And where is that 2-5 hours supposed to come from? What does free time even mean?

What is Free Time?

Free time is discretionary time. So, does it matter how the so-called free time is spent? Yes, it does.

Psychologist and professor, Cassie Holmes, warns that too much free time can interfere with our sense of purpose, which then interferes with our happiness.

So, she recommends a variety of ways to spend discretionary time that increase sense of purpose and, in so doing, our sense of being more ‘time affluent’ too.

But I want to talk about play. Just play.

What About Play?

Excerpted from an earlier post:

Here’s a good statement from performance coach, Joe Robinson:

“When you’re stressed, the brain’s activated emotional hub, the amygdala, suppresses positive mood, fueling a self-perpetuating cycle of negativity. Play can break you out of that straitjacket. It’s the brain’s reset button. This tonic we write off as trivial is a crucial engine of well-being. In its low-key, humble way, play yanks grownups out of their purposeful sleepwalk to reveal the animating spirit within. You are alive, and play will prove it to you.”

Anybody who has ever suffered burnout will tell you how practical and serious it is to bring energy back to life – at work and at home.

In fact, Harvard researchers found that play not only relieves stress but improves brain function, stimulates the mind, boosts creativity, improves relationships, builds energy, and resistance to disease.

Wow. But then, if it’s that good, how come we don’t play more? Seems to me right up there with the best of ways to spend our time. And yet, a lot of folks don’t look at play that way. As one author put it:

“Our society tends to dismiss play for adults. Play is perceived as unproductive, petty, or even a guilty pleasure. The notion is that once we reach adulthood, it’s time to get serious. And between personal and professional responsibilities, there’s no time to play.”

So that’s my pitch on play. And, yes, I am aware that I am talking about the purposefulness of the supposed purposelessness of play. Kind of like asking if there is really such a thing as true altruism if it’s that good to do good for the one doing the good. Doesn’t matter.

Two to 5 hours of discretionary time per day and, if you care to, go ahead and include play. Practice, practice, practice… and let us know what you find.

Warm wishes,


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About the Author: Madelaine Weiss
Madelaine Claire Weiss (LICSW, MBA, BCC) is a Licensed Psychotherapist, a Board Certified Executive-Career-Life Coach, and bestselling author of “Getting to G.R.E.A.T. 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life.” sfas

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