How free time affects your mental health

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Transport yourself back to the early stages of the pandemic in March 2020: remember those long walks, hours baking in the kitchen, and staring at the hands of the clock, pleading for the time to tick away? The pandemic created a rush and hyper focus on free time and the best way to spend it. Some people felt lonely, others found strength in social media and online networks, while others developed new hobbies.

So, what does too much free time look like?

After two studies over twenty years, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that too much free time results in higher levels of stress and lower levels of subjective well-being.

Nearly 22,000 Americans were surveyed between 2012 and 2013, years before COVID-19 took over our lives. The results of the study showed that well-being increased alongside free time for about two hours before plateauing and eventually declining after five hours. In a second study, the scientists collected data from about 14,000 working adults over twenty years. The study yielded similar results. 

Ultimately, the findings suggest that having entire days free to fill at one’s discretion may leave one feeling dissatisfied and unhappy. People should look to have a moderate amount of time to spend how they want. And when there are days with nothing on the calendar, a new passion or hobby to channel your energy towards is a good way to spend your time.

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