How much free time do you need to be happy?

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Having too much time can be as bad as having too little time. People are often busy and are looking for more free time to contribute to their sense of well-being.1 But how much free time do you need to be happy?

Free time is often associated with a higher sense of well-being, but we do not see the negative aspects that come with having too much freedom. Having too much freedom can lead to laziness and a lower level of well-being.2

A poll conducted in the US showed that half of Americans felt that they had no time to do what they want. Instead of investing in time management books, 50% of Americans tend to spend more money on shopping, household items, and maintenance.2

People with busy lives often think that having endless amounts of free time would make them happy because they can participate in activities they enjoy. Studies show that spending excess time on enjoyable activities can make the activity lose its value and impact one’s happiness.2

Researchers examined data from two surveys performed by the American Time Use Survey and the National Study of the Changing Workforce. Americans were asked to report how much free time they have and what they do in a day.1

After analyzing, researchers from both surveys discovered that after five hours of free time, the sense of well-being of a person begins to decline.1

It was revealed that participants with no free time felt more stressed when given a break compared to people with moderate amounts of free time. Participants with lots of downtime felt less productive when given more free time.1

Participants with no free time and excess amounts of free time both associated more spare time with lower well-being.1

Another experiment was conducted to understand how productivity plays a role in downtime.

The participants were told to describe their level of productivity when given either 3.5 hours or 7 hours of free time.1

The research showed that those with lots of freedom reported lower levels of well-being and feeling unproductive when given free time. The same research also showed that in performing productive activities, those with lots of free time felt the same as those with moderate free time.1

People tend to be more satisfied with their lives when they have a purpose and are busy with work rather than just idle and unproductive. According to the study, having more than two hours of free time will not guarantee more happiness.2

Those with little time for freedom should manage their time to be able to spend at least two hours on activities they want to participate in. These activities could include socializing and exercising which are linked to a greater quality of life.2

References:

1. Novak K. Too much free time may be almost as bad as too little. EurekAlert! https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/927252. Accessed September 24, 2021.

2. Sharif MA, Mogilner C, Hershfield HE. Having too little or too much time is linked to lower subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2021. doi:10.1037/pspp0000391

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay 

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