A busy mind is a happy mind

We get it, you've got a lot going on. Photo: Brianna Lehman/Flickr

We get it, you’ve got a lot going on. Photo: Brianna Lehman/Flickr

Sounds like something your grandfather would say, right? Well to a certain extent, it’s true.

When writing his book Time for Life, which addresses stress and the time crunch people claim to experience every day, co-author John Robinson looked at a survey conducted by the University of Michigan in 1965. Robinson then re-distributed the survey in 1990, 2004, 2009 and 2010. The survey asked how often people felt rushed and how much free time they had. Robinson and his colleagues wanted to test the presumption that people are busier nowadays, and despite the belief that we live in a non-stop, always-on-the-go world (and all the advertising that plays into that belief), it’s not necessarily true.

According to Robinson, the time we were at our busiest was in the 90s. Thirty five percent of the respondents said they felt “always rushed,” up from 24 percent in 1965. That number dropped seven percent by 2009 and the percentage of respondents that claimed they had no free time dropped as well.

So basically we’re just inflammatory drama queens claiming that we’re super busy when we’re actually not, right? Well, not entirely; a lot of the downturn is linked to higher unemployment, the housing bust and increased fuel and food prices. We’re less likely to try and fit shopping into our day and it’s hard to feel rushed when you’ve lost your job. But there is another nugget of information Robinson discovered that could have some benefit.

Along with the stress and time queries, the survey also asked how happy people felt. While the people who reported they always felt rushed were less happy, the people who didn’t always feel rushed but reported having little to no free time were more likely to say they were happy. It was the people that took their tasks slowly and filled up their free time with constructive activities that had the most positive outlook on life.

So the next time someone tells you you need a hobby, you might want to consider getting one.


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