When was the last time you did an activity just for the fun of it or truly enjoyed a non-work related activity? How often do you do these types of activities? Weekly? Monthly? Maybe a couple times a year?
A survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2019 found that people between the ages of 25 and 54 spend the least amount of time in leisure activities on an average day (about 4.39 hours) compared to other age groups (5 to 7 hours), and women spend less time in leisure compared to men per day. Watching television was one of the most reported leisure activities in this study. As many people watch TV passively while doing something else like cooking, visiting or working, we can assume few people engage intentionally in a leisure activity within their weekly routine.
Adding back in leisure time: leisure exploration
As an occupational therapist for eight years, here are my top tips to help people get back to FUN! If you’re ready to jump in and start exploring, grab the leisure interest checklist and start exploring!
- Brainstorm using the Leisure Interest Checklist and circle any activity you have interest in.
- Highlight two or three activities that fit in your budget that you can do within the next 30 days.
- Follow through. Make a date with yourself (or a friend/family member) and try at least one of those activities in the next month.
- Reflect. Did you enjoy it? Did a part of you find yourself having FUN? Is this an activity you want to do again, or do you want to try something else?
As you find an activity or two you enjoy, begin to schedule them more regularly into your weekly or monthly routine, depending on the time commitment and your budget.
Struggling to explore leisure?
Some people will try these steps and still find it hard to access joy or fun when not working or being productive. If you are an on-the-go, purpose-driven person, feelings of guilt may creep in because of other work that still needs to be done, and feelings of overwhelm from your to-do list may distract you. Or maybe you just love your work! This is normal considering the pace of the current world. The pressure to go-go-go becomes the norm, and discovering other activities outside of work is a lower priority.
My best tip for you is to get CURIOUS and start the journey to reconnect to yourself. As a stress management and resiliency coach, one of the best gifts I gave myself was doing this deeper work so I could help others start their journeys. It included getting curious about my incessant need to be busy all the time. I also needed to break down my type-A, perfectionist tendencies that were keeping me overwhelmed and not able to find peace and joy.
Getting curious about yourself can feel scary and vulnerable. Whether you begin to do this work on your own, through journaling, meditation, or prayer and self-reflection, or with an expert/therapist/coach, this curiosity journey will help you reconnect to joy, leisure and fun in your life!
Advice from holistic wellness experts: mindfulness and curiosity
As Dale Nasby, owner of and therapist at Serene Spirit (serenespiritmhc.com), says, one of the first tools she often uses with clients is mindfulness and how to be in the present. As Dale shares, one finding from a long-running study on happiness was that people who tend to live in the present are also more likely to have higher reports of happiness. When connecting more with yourself, Dale recommends starting with a simple activity, such as asking yourself: What’s your favorite color? Favorite food? Favorite movie? Dale reminds her clients that sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to just “be.”
Boonmee McElroy, international coach, speaker and author (aboveandbeyondcoachingllc.com), adds that in her own journey, fostering more curiosity about herself allowed her to find more joy and her purpose in life. She shares that our society can too heavily depend on answers at our fingertips from Google or our phone, which is the opposite of self-exploration and curiosity. In Boonmee’s work, she helps people find themselves by tapping into their innate curiosity and moving away from societal pressures or expectations. If you’re ready to begin the journey back to yourself to find more joy, use the steps below.
Wherever you are on your journey, remember that life can be busy, messy, chaotic AND beautiful. Your to-do list may never end. There will always be pressures and expectations, but you can intentionally pause, take a moment of stillness and a mindful breath to bring more happiness into your life!
Prioritize moments of mindfulness and leisure activities to gain more joy in your days!
Lean in with curiosity! Growth may feel uncomfortable, but it is oh-so worth it!
Steps to Reconnect to Self
(So You Can Find More Joy)
- Start with self-reflection. What do you like about yourself and your life now? What are your strengths? Weaknesses? Use this Enjoy Life Now worksheet as a starting point.
- Start exploring what it’s like to be “still.” Learn a mindfulness practice to help you simply be.
- If parts 1 and 2 are difficult or uncomfortable, reach out to an emotional wellness guide, coach or mental health professional to do the work with you. We all can use a little help sometimes.
Maria Serbus is the CEO of Maria Serbus, LLC. She focuses on helping motivated, driven women overcome stress and overwhelm through mind-body practices to enjoy the life they live now.
mariaserbus.com | @maria.serbus