On Recess and Leisure

Didn’t you love recess time during your school days? It was a 10minute break to stop studying, get out of the classroom, run outside screaming, play games with balls, cards or skip ropes, maybe eat a snack or joke with a friend.  Hopefully finding a nook and staying away from bullies.  How many kids love recess more than any other subject?!

Then the time came to go to high school, university and/or settle into a working routine and the whole concept of recess was left behind.  We forget about that wonderful recess period when we were forced to take a break after 75-90minutes of learning and hard concentration, be outdoors unless the weather was frightening, and play, relax and have fun.

We probably need that recess period more now than ever what with all the information, noise and hectic pace that make up our lives today.

We need that form of release - maybe not the running-and-screaming kind - although some of us might want to!

We might be participating in “recess” but not realizing it or talking about it in those terms.  Instead we call it relaxation, fun, recreation, chillin’ and downtime.  The essence of it all is leisure.

Leisure tends to get a bad rap these days.  Who has time for leisure anymore?  While it’s probably true that there are fewer of us making time for leisure in our lives, it’s also true that leisure is important for all of us.

In their book The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz discuss recovery rituals and how it is helpful to view time as an opportunity to make choices about how we spend that resource.

They recommend that we learn to create stopping points in our day, pause points, when we stop and shift our focus from producing to restoring our energy.  Just like recess!

What does leisure mean to YOU?

There’s a misconception that leisure is for retirees and seniors who have lots of time on their hands or that it’s when you’re doing nothing. I’ve even heard people say that their favourite leisure activity is sleeping!

Leisure is actually time when you CHOOSE an activity that is enjoyable, pleasurable, relaxing, and meaningful for you.  You know when you’re experiencing leisure because you’re enjoying the activity, feeling relaxed, happy, perhaps joyful and experiencing a sense of freedom – from worry, from anxiety, from negative thoughts.

When you are fully engaged with an activity, you may find yourself in flow - the concept coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who discovered that people are most happy when they are in a state of complete absorption with an activity at hand.  The idea of flow is similar to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove, where you are completely immersed in what you are doing.  It’s a feeling of great absorption, engagement, and fulfillment where time and your personal needs are not felt.

The benefits of experiencing flow and leisure are enormous:

  • A sense of relaxation for you mind, body and spirit
  • A sense of rejuvenation
  • Re-connecting with yourself
  • A feeling of positivity, calm and contentment
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • A renewed sense of appreciation and gratitude
  • An overall sense of well-being and vitality.

A great indication of your leisure lifestyle is how you spend your evenings, weekends and holidays.  What are you doing and how are you spending your free time?  Are you making time for leisure in your life?  Do you feel rejuvenated and relaxed, re-connected to yourself?

The problem many people have is figuring out what they would love to do for their leisure time.

The Change Blog recently posted on 7 Keys to discovering your life purpose and it’s no coincidence that many of their tips are also connected to finding your leisure.  It’s very likely that your life purpose and what you love to do in your leisure time are connected.

Here are some of The Change Blog’s tips and a few of my own to help you discover and plan a fulfilling leisure lifestyle:

  • What are you curious about?
  • What would you like to learn?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What moves you?
  • When do you smile?  What makes you smile?
  • Do you prefer re-energizing alone, with others or a combination?
  • Do you prefer passive or active leisure activities, and when?
  • What is fun for you?  How do you like to have fun?
  • How are you creative?  What would you like to create?
  • What brings you a sense of calm and peace?

It’s your free time – how are you going to use it?? It’s an opportunity and a choice you are making for yourself, your health and your life.