Plan your leisure

Lady at home making bread

Lady at home making bread

Everyone looks forward to moments of relaxation. When we can tune out daily stresses and just be ourselves. Often, the pulls and tugs of daily life can be so overwhelming that we just want a few minutes where we don’t have to make decisions, settle arguments, manage emotions, or even think. Yes, to just sit back with our feet up. And what do most of us do when we are fortunate enough to get some downtime? We instinctively reach out for the remote or our phones, and mindlessly surf TV channels or the Internet. And, about half an hour later, we get up from our couches probably feeling just as exhausted.

Plan your break

However, if we plan our leisure time more diligently, we may not end up so drained. On the contrary, if we choose how we spend our precious free time, we may actually end up rejuvenated . Psychologists, in fact, urge us to select activities that tap our signature strengths. Depending on our interests and current mood, we could opt from a variety of experiences that bring out our talents.

If you are up to meeting people, socialising with friends is a great way to de-stress and boost your mood. On the other hand, if you feel like a quiet evening, engage in a hobby that, literally, engages you. Be it painting, singing, calligraphy or fencing, select an activity that draws you in completely. Whether it is mastering a backhand stroke in tennis, creating an aesthetic Ikebana display, sighting a pied mynah, or baking scrumptious scones, see how you can hone your skills further. When you perform these pleasurable but meaningful activities, you will find that you will be recharged and refreshed and in a better position to take on the other stresses that await you, whether in your work or personal life.

In his book, Deep Work , Cal Newport exhorts us to put more thought into how we would like to spend our leisure time. He suggests that we chalk out what to do in our free time, beforehand. Just as we would organise a busy but packed workday by thinking ahead, Newport suggests that you similarly carve out goals for your downtime too. So, this could involve some forethought on what you might do at the end of your day, the weekend, during your semester break, or the summer vacation. To many, scheduling our free time may sound blasphemous. What is the point of leisure unless we unwind?


But contrary to what we may think, performing acts that we enjoy, in a goal-directed manner, can be the tonic our tired minds need. Newport quotes English writer Arnold Bennett, who argues that our “mental faculties... do not tire like an arm or a leg. All they want is change — not rest, except in sleep.”

In fact, the best antidote to mental fatigue at the end of a long day or a gruelling exam period is probably a well-chosen leisure activity. As American philosopher and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, so eloquently states, “Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” So, by thinking ahead and selecting an optimal activity, you may start relishing your free time even more.

The author is Director, PRAYATNA.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 9:33:29 pm |