For most of my life, I have been the type of person to give 110% to school, work, and other non-leisurely obligations. Then, I’d take the weekends to essentially veg out and attempt to recharge my batteries for the upcoming week. Sure, I’d be doing homework on Sunday evenings when I was in high school and college, but the majority of my free time was spent doing as little as possible–watching TV and movies, lounging on the couch, and living in sweatpants. Without a second thought, this seemed like a completely natural way to relax and rest my likely burnt-out mind and body. But once I graduated and was no longer bumming out with my roommates as a form of bonding, my leisure time started to feel hollow and lacking of quality. I craved a more intentional form of relaxation that would help me feel grounded and could quell the impending Sunday scaries that I had come to know all too well.
I reflected on what I wanted to get out of my leisure time, and the answer ended up being quite simple: I wanted to spend my time doing things that furthered and fueled my sense of purpose. To put it another way, I wanted to invest my time in activities that would allow me to feel a certain way while gently advancing me toward my goals. It became clear to me that my new-found anxiety did not stem from a lack of free time–rather, it was the result of spending that time in a state of inaction. Since I am an individual who enjoys a strong sense of purpose in everything that I do, it’s only natural that I would feel like my best self when spending my leisure time in a mindful manner. For me, that means actually doing stuff that fuels my creative passions and non-work interests, such as:
- Brainstorming for the blog!
- Reading a book for my upcoming book club
- Learning about nutrition and functional medicine
- Brushing up on “adult” topics like personal finances and investing
Now to some, these activities might not sound extremely relaxing or fun, and that’s the beauty of mindful leisure. The reason these activities are enjoyable to me is because they being me close to the way I ultimately want to feel, which is way less anxious and overwhelmed by life, and because they also gently nudge me toward my goals of transitioning into a career in the nutrition/functional medicine/holistic wellness space. For me, that’s an incredibly successful formula for how I can spend my free time and still come out of it feeling grounded and rejuvenated.
For you, and perhaps for many other people, that formula looks a little bit or a lot bit different. Accordingly, I encourage you to take the time to identify what you want to get out of your non-work, non-school, non-obligation-centered time. Identify how you currently feel during your time off, compare it to the way you want to feel, and start to formulate new activities and habits that can bridge that disparity.
And one last thing about mindful leisure–I mentioned above that I experience the most anxiety when I find myself in a state of inaction; when I am not actively doing something every day to achieve my goals. This probably sounds aggressive. At the beginning of this endeavor, I believed it had to be aggressive in order to really make a difference in my life. However, this is not true. Action vs. inaction does not necessarily equal all or nothing. For me, the actions that I take in my spare time are done so at a very moderate, enjoyable pace. The minute my leisurely activity has conditions attached to it, such as getting a certain amount done in a given amount of time, I immediately enjoy it less. It’s important for me to keep the experience pure, so that I don’t lose sight of the reason why I am doing that activity in the first place. And, because life is meant to be enjoyed. While overarching goals give me a strong drive, I feel content making any kind of progress toward them, and I am relishing the journey as much as I am looking forward to the destination.
How do you want to feel, and what can you do in your spare time to achieve that feeling every day?