Find happiness by being busy but not rushed

Why people with too much free time report the least amount of happiness.

Jennifer Garner, celebrity mom, playing in the park with daughter

Busy mom Jennifer Garner playing in the park with one of her three children.
Photo: Getty Images

I’m guessing my schedule isn’t that different from yours — it’s packed with work demands, volunteer requests, parenting tasks, relationship to-dos, personal maintenance appointments and, if I’m lucky, a little me time in the form of the odd girls’ nights out or a dance class with a friend.

It was a jolt to jump back into this jam-packed schedule after a leisurely, relatively commitment-free two weeks of holidays. Yup, this week I, like you, am right back into it.

Which is why this bit of research, from the University of Maryland, really caught my attention. The study explains that it’s those of us who are busy, but not rushed and don’t have too much free time that reported feeling ‘unhappy’ the least.

Lead researcher John P. Robinson, a professor at the University of Maryland, notes that life and society have sped up in the past few decades. Yet, as Robinson finds, the feeling of being rushed has actually dropped in the past decade, even amongst the unemployed.

He concludes that, “people who were less rushed and with less excess time reported themselves as more happy,” while the people who reported the least amount of happiness had the most excess time. If anything, people reported they preferred to have excess time once in awhile and were happy with that.

It occurred to me while writing, that this certainly matches my lifestyle. While I do have a busy schedule, I like taking time out once in awhile to do some of the things I enjoy. For me, it comes back to the work-life balance we always seem to be chasing.

If you’re having trouble staying balanced The Canadian Mental Health Association, who notes that 58 percent of Canadians feel overloaded by many of their responsibilities, offers some great tips here. There’s hope — even a 15 minute exercise break can make a difference!

If you have any other ideas on how to maintain that balance, I’d love to hear them. Tweet me @AstridVanDenB or leave a comment below.