All About Happiness
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
The Psychology of  Leisure

What are you going to do this weekend? A movie? Bike ride? A date? A trip to the beach? Whatever activity you choose it may be interesting to know that there is a good chance it will pay off for you psychologically. 

Leisure, simply put, is time away from work and responsibilities regardless of whether they are job-related or domestic. Leisure time is when we relax and pursue hobbies, interests, athletics, and sometimes nothing at all. 

In a recent review of research on the happiness benefits of leisure psychologist David Newman and his colleagues explored more than a dozen theories. Ultimately, they landed on the acronym "Dramma" to explain the various benefits of leisure. 

The "d" and the "r" in DRAMMA stand for a single concept: detachment-recovery. This means that people use leisure to take a break. They break from their day-to-day cares and leisure helps them recharge their mental batteries. One example of this can be seen in intervention research by Positive Acorn alum Holli-Anne Passmore. She and her colleague had nearly 400 people pay attention to either the natural environment or the human-built environment. Those who attended to nature reported more positive emotions and a greater sense of connectedness. What does this have to do with leisure? It is one possible explanation why so many people opt for camping, swimming, hiking, skiing, climbing, surfing and other pursuits that are focused on interaction with nature. 

Next in the acronym is "Autonomy," "Mastery," and "Meaning." Here, the Newman research team found frequent benefits related to these three key concepts. Mastery and Meaning deserve special mention here: activities like running and photography can be far more than idle past times. Both are examples of skills that provide opportunities to improve performance (mastery) and to identify with a culture and express one's self (meaning). 

Embedded within the ideas of leisure's relationship with mastery and meaning, however, is a profoundly important point. My dissertation adviser, Joar Vittersø, articulated it beautifully in a chapter he contributed to   Positive Psychology as Social Change. There, Vittersø points out that mastering new skills is not necessarily a pleasant process. Typically, performance requires persistence, tolerance of discomfort, and even a little failure. Any runner can attest to the fact that there are some pretty miserable moments on the trail. 

This means that people who use leisure principally for detachment-recovery are more likely to opt for pleasant activities such as dinner out, watching TV, or hanging out with friends. This is not inherently problematic but it is associated with some short-term gain (recovery in a sedentary lifestyle) at the possible expense of longer term health. This is why it may be important to balance the recovery and the mastery aspects of leisure. 

Finally, we have the last "A" which stands for "Affiliation" or, put another way, connecting with others. Of the 100 research articles reviewed a whopping 42 of them specifically advanced affiliation as a means by which leisure leads to well-being. Simply put, we often like to be with others during our downtime.

Now, let me ask you again: what are you planning this weekend? How wide will the benefits be on the DRAMMA spectrum? What can you change to make certain that your leisure is even more psychologically beneficial? 

Hope you find this information entertaining and informative

Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

Let's try this again! The Psychology of Emotion 

Mark your  calendar for Thursday, September 8th At 11 AM US Pacific Time! Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener will be presenting on the science of emotions. This is a preview of his upcoming presentation for the International Coach Federation and a chance to catch up on his latest thinking. To register for this free one hour event click here

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