Recognizing and Appreciating the Gift of Free Time

A few notebooks, a cup of tea, and a pair of glasses sitting on a pink blanket to demonstrate the gift of free time

In today’s fast-paced world, it seems like everyone is in a hurry. People aren’t appreciating the gift of free time, even if they receive it. It is a strange irony that with so much technology to help us in our everyday lives, and fast cars to get us around, we apparently have even less time, and find it even more difficult to keep promises.

Perhaps social media is to blame, or the pressure of work, or maybe the overwhelming sensory overload of modern society. Whatever the case, people have simply lost perspective on what is important and where their priorities should lie.

Regardless of the underlying reason, most of us frequently find ourselves running from one obligation to the next, day in and day out, with very little room in between for reflection or doing the things we enjoy. High pressure jobs and long hours add to this feeling that there are simply not enough hours in the day, as do of course, family commitments and children.

With the added stress of the global pandemic over the last two years, hobbies, socializing, and what were previously enjoyable activities have fallen by the wayside and been replaced by homeschooling, video conference calls and constant stress.

If asked, most adults will likely tell you they have no free time. Between working, watching the children, doing the housework, cooking and running errands, there is no time left. Free time is a thing of the past. We live in a world where people are ‘on’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and feel like they never have a moment to themselves.

That’s the focus of today’s blog post. I’d like to talk about the gift of free time, making room in our hectic schedules for unstructured activities, and how this brings about higher life satisfaction.

Where Has Our Free Time Gone?

Perhaps one of the problems is that many people today have lost the ability to simply “be,” without watching something, achieving something, learning something, doing something.

The perception that there is no ‘free time’ during the day is sometimes incorrect. For most people, there is often a large portion of an average week which is not required for necessary tasks or trips.

However, it is not recognized as ‘free time’ because it will generally be taken up by tasks that may seem relaxing, but actually place more stress on us, such as scrolling through social media.

Yoshitaka Iwasaki, a professor at the University of Alberta, observes that “We often make poor choices about how we spend our leisure time … people can have a richer life by making a conscious effort to ensure that precious free time is also quality time.”

It is recognized and acknowledged that busy people need guidance on how to relax and take a step back from life, hence the rise in popularity of yoga and meditation. Ultimately, we all need time to reflect, gain sufficient sleep, and take a step back from life. We need to slow down.

Receiving the Gift of Free Time

But every now and again, we are given the gift of time.

Maybe your meeting is postponed, an event gets cancelled, a family member arrives unannounced to take the children off your hands, and you receive this wonderful gift of time.

But what do you do with this unexpected free time?

The first step is to recognize this gift and take advantage of it. With so little room for relaxation and reflection in our lives, many people simply don’t realize how precious this gift is, and waste it. Or even worse, they put so much pressure on themselves to ‘make the most’ of this free time that the day does not go as planned, and they are left disappointed.

Start with looking at an average week and scheduling in some designated “free time.” This may seem counterintuitive, but if you do not acknowledge the down time, it will disappear and cease to exist.

How to Spend Your Free Time

So now we know it’s coming, how do we fill this precious “free time”? And more importantly, does it need to be filled?

The instruction to “relax” or “chill out” will be interpreted differently by everyone. Some of the most effective ways of spending free time have been identified as including education, health and fitness, relaxation, and socialization.

For you, it may mean jogging, reading the newspaper, knitting, taking a nap, visiting family, or a multitude of other options.

Ultimately, this gift of free time should be spent doing something which makes you happy, and something which, upon reflection, you felt was worthwhile. Spending free time doing something creative can help to recharge us in more ways than one, giving us a sense of achievement, something to be proud of, and a chance to focus on something other than your obligations.

Think About What Makes You Happy

The next step is to consider what you really enjoy doing. According to author James Wallman, many people spend their free time doing things that aren’t really making them happy.

This sounds simple, but how many people ever actually take the time to consider what makes them happy? This may be something you’ve never done but like the idea of, or something you used to do and would love to get back into; hiking, swimming, bird watching, taking a class, learning a new skill, or simply reading a good book. Maybe you have always wanted to volunteer or get involved with a youth group.

Make a list of things that you enjoy, and then consider how you may be able to work one or several of these into your daily schedule. Evening activities and classes are very popular and can be found almost everywhere, so check gyms, community centers, and local schools.

Try to find a few things which can also be picked up or organized at short notice so you can get started straight away if you receive a last minute cancellation and some free time you weren’t expecting.

Keep Active for Best Results

It may be counterintuitive, but although vegging out in front of the TV after a long day seems like the only realistic possibility, going out to do something either physical, social, or mentally stimulating every once in a while may be a better option. It will release endorphins, take your mind off whatever happened during the day, and help you get a better night’s sleep.

Any number of activities or classes can be completed within an hour, and you would be hard pressed to find many people who cannot find an hour in their day to do something they enjoy.

Stick With It

Ultimately the idea of free time comes down to mindset and is a question of attitude. The time is there, we just need to recognize it, plan it, and commit to it. Don’t go into it half-heartedly, decide what makes you happy, set aside the time to do it, and make a commitment to do it every week.

Whatever that interest may be, do it with purpose, and you won’t regret it. It is a great first step to understanding yourself and feeling more fulfilled and content with your own life.

I can help you address performance anxiety and find courage and balance in your life. I will help you find your true self so you can start living the life you want! Contact me for more information about getting started.

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