I’m guilty of the following things, which sound different, but are very much the same.
When I start to get hungry and no food is around, I eat whatever is closest to me. This usually happens at work, and is usually something that makes me keel over in pain later because my body can’t eat foods that are more or less cardboard.
When I don’t want to do something or when I’m tired, I go to my phone. I check Facebook. I creep on Twitter. I’ll play this addicting game called Two Dots which, for the love of God, do not download. It’s basically just free hypnosis and a way to make you feel minor shame for the drool stains that inevitably appear on your shirt.
Both of these scenarios involve junk food, for lack of a better term. They’re not bad on their own — I fully believe that every person should veg on their phones and eat multiple Reese’s Cups at once from time to time. But junk food doesn’t provide us the sustenance that we need, and it doesn’t restore us.
We live in a time where phrases like “Sunday scaries” and “there aren’t enough hours in the day” are commonplace. We’re overworked humans who need caffeine to get things done and need a glass of wine to unwind. There are countless reasons for this, but it makes sense that, after a long day or long week, we lay on the couch and watch Netflix for hours. It also makes sense that, even with this type of “rest,” we still feel exhausted.
I’m reading a book called “The Power of Full Engagement,” on loan to me from my therapist, and they talk in detail about the importance of depth and quality in our free time. What we choose to do to recover and restore ourselves needs to be intentional and nourishing.
There’s a noticeable difference in my health, both physical and mental, between when I eat something homemade and when I eat something artificial or rich. I feel better, I do better, I’m more focused, and I’m even happier — which comes as no surprise, because happiness can be hard to find when you’re feeling ill. It’s this same concept that I’m trying to apply to my free time and life as a whole.
Free time should feed our souls. I’m not trying to sound like a poor woman’s version of Brené Brown, but it’s true. I’ve read a lot of Brown’s work this year (it’s absolutely worth the hype), and her words + the aforementioned PoFE have led me to these conclusions:
Free Time Is Not Selfish
As my therapist Sarah wisely told me, “I need to take vacations so that I can be a better therapist.” If we don’t take time for ourselves, we won’t ever be at our best. If we constantly were lifting weights or running without taking breaks, we would die. Free time makes life enjoyable, but it’s also necessary.
Free Time Needs to Be Intentional
We do well with routines as humans. Just like we go to work at a certain time and (try to) go to bed at a certain time, we need to schedule in free time. If you’re like me, you don’t do well with times and dates. I’ve found that listening to my body and honoring what it’s telling me works best. This usually looks like me going for a spontaneous walk or run, or hey, even just writing this blog!
Free Time Needs to Be Restorative
We all have hobbies or activities that make us feel fulfilled. These are the things that bring us satisfaction, contentment, even joy and a sense of accomplishment. Here’s my list:
- Painting and drawing
- Being outside
- Catching up with friends and family
- Trying new things (gardening this year, also rock climbing!)
- Hanging out with my boo thang
If I were to do only one of these things all the time, I might not feel as restored (personally, maybe you’d feel differently). But having that balance and making sure I do at least some of these things every week are what make me feel content. On weeks where I’m short on these things, I feel all the more depleted.
Junk Food Is Still Allowed
To reiterate, I’m of course going to snack on some Oreos that come my way, because Oreos also bring me joy. Reading posts from people who still list “It’s Complicated” as their relationship status still are a guilty pleasure. But if I were to only do those things, I wouldn’t feel satisfied in the long run. I’d feel worse than before.
With better and more purposeful free time, we’d all be better humans. For as much as we give ourselves to others, it’s necessary and right to give to ourselves. Providing depth and quality to our free time is the way to do so.
What are some examples of restorative free time in your life? I’d love to hear them — please comment below!