Pastimes construct us happier- so ignore the mockery, and enjoy | Fay Schopen


Gardening, birdwatching, stroking your cat whatever it is you like doing, just go for it. Its officially good for you

Its a bleak Monday in January, and you have expended half the morning trying to come up with plausible excuses to get out of doing any run. But I have some good news: the key to a happy life and I know you were wondering about that is, apparently, spending more time on your hobbies.

New research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology( and not the Institute of the Completely Obvious, as you may have expected ), says that valuing your time more than the pursuit of money leads to feelings of greater wellbeing. And by valuing your time, they mean spending it wisely on pastimes, exerting or being with your family.

The researchers even invented two characters, Tina and Maggie, and asked people who they preferred money-grubbing sociopath Maggie, who would rather run more hours and make more money, or workshy hippy Tina who wanted to work fewer hours and make less cash. The alternative of running fewer and attaining more money was strangely absent, although that is of course the obvious answer, as evidenced by the hordes of people who bought lottery tickets this weekend.

My main issue with the research is the idea of adults having pastimes. What are hobbies anyway? Pastimes, suggests my boyfriend, which makes them sound marginally less awful. But is eating biscuits while watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians a pastime? Because if so, I am very serious about it, and presumably I am very happy too, although I wouldnt know it, because I have given up my favourite pastime( drinking) for January and perhaps for ever if the governmental forces draconian new guidelines are to be believed.

After all what is the point of being an adult if you cant joyously cast off pastimes? Most of them not only smack of Victorian ideals of self-improvement, but are basically activities adults stimulated you do when you were small children so they could get you out of the style for a few hours. If you have been a Brownie or a Scout you will know what I am talking about. Heres what happened when I was a Brownie: I was awarded a badge for collecting scented erasers( a 1980 s pastime if ever there was one) and I was made to do Brown Owls housework, under the guise of gaining another badge.

There are very few pastimes that are acceptable as an adult. None involve mindfulness colouring-in and most are a way of life: drinking, eating, listening to music, perhaps a bit of yoga. Of course, there are ways to pass off these everyday activities off as pastimes, chiefly by making them as complicated and time-consuming as is practicable. Cooking is brilliant for this. Simply choose an extremely complex recipe with many obscure ingredients anything by Yotam Ottolenghi is perfect, and I cant recommend Donna Hays beef rendang enough not only do you have to find fresh turmeric, galangal and kaffir lime leaves, it also takes three hours to cook. Bingo!

Pets are also useful. Dogs strolls, plainly. Cats well, if stroking cats isnt a hobby then I dont know what the world is coming to. Pets with ailments are fantastically time-consuming. My own cat has inflammatory bowel illnes, it turns out. I cant recommend it, but it certainly necessitates spending several hundred hours away from my desk and at the vets.

As with so many things, there is an age dimension. Older people questioned for the study were more likely to say they valued their time compared with younger people. This can only be good news pastimes that your friends previously taunted “youre starting” becoming acceptable as you age birdwatching, for example. This seems to be fine after the age of 40. Ditto gardening.

So there you have it. Faff around doing anything you like, actually, and you may even fool yourself into being happier. After all, isnt the study basically saying that the more time spent away from run the better? Common sense, really.

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