Find that your work duties or home responsibilities are spilling over into what are supposed to be your “off” hours? Researchers say you’ll be happier in your personal life and when doing day-to-day work or home tasks when you cordon off a little time to just enjoy yourself—no work allowed. Tune into this week’s episode to find out why giving yourself work-free space is so crucial for your wellbeing. Then, find out my 7 easy suggestions for ensuring you get this no-work leisure time to yourself.
Check out the book that inspired this podcast, THE HAPPINESS UPGRADE: ONE SMALL STEP UP TO A HAPPIER LIFE (available at Amazon) at HappinessUpgradePress.com.
Learn more about the Happiness Upgrade Podcast at HappinessUpgradePress.com.
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Do you find that your work life or home responsibilities are spilling over into your off-hours, so you’re answering emails, cleaning rooms or doing other day-to-day tasks when you’re not even supposed to be on the clock? Researchers say that creating a little no-work-allowed time for yourself boosts happiness in your personal life and makes your job and home tasks easier to do, too! Here’s why….
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Happiness Upgrade Podcast. I’m your host, Gabrielle Lichterman, health journalist and author of the book The Happiness Upgrade: One Small Step Up to a Happier Life. Every week in this podcast, I share one easy study-backed method to improve your mood, plus my 7 suggestions for ways to try the technique during your week. And now for this week’s Happiness Upgrade tip….
Take a moment to think back and determine if this sounds anything like you:
You’re in the workforce (for example, you’re an office employee or are in the hospitality industry) and even though your official work hours are over, you’re still checking emails and texts from coworkers and answering incoming questions. Or you’re thinking about plans you need to make for your job, such as how to do a project or how to handle a situation with an employee. Or you’re online doing research for a certain work task or you’re studying for an exam that will help you move up the ladder in your career. Again, all before or after your normal work hours.
Or maybe you’re not in the traditional workforce, but you have lots of responsibilities. Maybe you’re taking care of your home, children and/or elderly adults, such as your parents. However, even during times when another member of your household is in charge of the home, kids or seniors, or you’ve got assistance from a professional, such as a visiting nurse, maybe you stick around just to help out. Or you use your off-time to go shopping to stock up on supplies you need for your home. Or you use this off-time to clean and organize.
If any of this sounds familiar—that your job or family responsibilities are overflowing into time when you’re supposed to be off the clock—you’re not alone. Work/life balance is a challenge for many people.
One reason may be that you believe on some level it’s a good thing to keep working in your off-hours. After all, if you live in a society that values productivity, you might think that one aspect of being a good worker or valued family member is putting in extra effort and to just keep going and going.
Another reason may be that you believe doing extra in your off-time will make your work or home responsibilities easier. You feel it helps you catch up on outstanding tasks. Or, if you’re lucky, maybe you’re getting ahead. Or at least trying to.
However, I’m here to tell you today that you’ll actually be happier in your personal life and you’ll be more productive and content when doing your job or taking care of your home or family when you regularly grant yourself permission to leave all responsibilities behind for at least a little while.
Let me explain why….
There have been numerous studies conducted over the past couple of decades from around the world that show people who disconnect from their work to-dos during their nonwork hours are happier and more satisfied with life.
One of these studies is research led by Portland State University in Oregon published in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.
Another is from The University of Tokyo, published in the May 2016 issue of the journal Industrial Health.
This is where happiness science comes in handy. That’s because these many research teams didn’t just find that simply not working during your off-hours boosts your mood and wellbeing. They also discovered something else that’s important:
They found that for the greatest surge in happiness, it’s also vital to make a point to enjoy certain types of activities in your non-work hours. These include activities that have absolutely nothing related to your job or home tasks, they help you relax, they give you a sense of control and they help you forget all about your day-to-day responsibilities.
A few examples of these can include gardening, painting, knitting, exercising, visiting a museum, woodworking and playing an instrument—as long as they’re not what you do for your job or home tasks.
That’s because these types of experiences are immersive, they’re fun, they’re destressing, they make you feel like you’re in control. All of this helps you mentally detach from your work life.
Now, I want to point out that researchers also say there’s an important type of activity to avoid during your nonwork hours: It’s anything that uses the same skills that you use for work.
Let me give you an example: I’m a writer and editor. All day long, I write articles for magazines. I write books. I write blog posts. I write podcast scripts. And I edit other authors’ manuscripts as a developmental editor. In my off-hours, I might be tempted to add another chapter to a couple of fiction books I’ve been working on over the years. However, that would be drawing on the same skills that I’ve been using again and again during my work hours: writing and editing. So, instead, I do activities in my off-hours that don’t even require me to turn on my laptop. I’ll exercise. I’ll play drums. I’ll head outside with my 35 mm camera and take photographs. I’ll do anything but write and edit. And even if I do just 20 minutes to an hour of this, I come back refreshed.
So, let’s talk about you: Say you move furniture for a living or you’re a personal trainer. You would look for activities that use your mind rather than your body in your off-hours, such as playing video games, reading or painting. If you cook a lot of meals for your family, instead of staying in the kitchen and baking, maybe you’d head outside on a nature walk.
That’s because, as researchers have noted, you need time to replenish those skills that you use every day. Without giving your body and mind a break from doing the same thing you do day in and day out, you face long-term fatigue, which leads to stress and burn-out at work and home.
However, when you do activities that you find fulfilling, yet that are completely different from what you do every day, you replenish the energy needed for those specific skills that you use for your job or home tasks. You lower stress. You’re able to do your day-to-day duties with renewed vigor.
All of this leads to greater happiness in your life, in general. Plus, you have more energy and less stress while doing your job and taking care of home responsibilities.
So, ultimately, what’s the big take-away here? You’ll give yourself a Happiness Upgrade in your personal life and feel renewed in your work life when you make a point of regularly disconnecting from job and home duties in your nonwork hours. And you’ll give yourself an even bigger Happiness Upgrade when you use your non-work time to enjoy an activity that’s completely different from everyday tasks, that helps you relax and gives you a sense of control.
Now I’d like to help you make it easy to ensure that you fit no-work-allowed time into your life so that you can give yourself a Happiness Upgrade this week. Here are my 7 suggestions for doing that:
1. Signal the end of your work hours with a special ritual, such as brewing yourself a soothing cup of tea or putting away a work tool, such as your laptop. Rituals train your brain to follow habits, making it easier to leave your tasks behind.
2. Once your worktime is over, physically walk away from your work area, say, stroll through the neighborhood or a park. Changing your environment is an effective way to tell your brain it’s time to stop thinking about day-to-day responsibilities. Plus, seeing people, nature or other scenery helps distract you from the constant flow of work thoughts you were just experiencing.
3. Go farther: If you need a complete change of scenery to shut off work thoughts, take a bike, bus, car or train to put a few miles between you and your workspace.
4. After work hours, do something that mentally transports you, forcing you to shut off thoughts of work. For example, immerse yourself in a book, hobby, video game or music.
5. Stop the flow of incoming work. This could mean turning off digital notifications, shutting down your computer or putting your phone in a drawer. Make use of email notifications that alert senders that you’re out of the office or away from your desk. This helps train folks that you’re not available for non-emergencies before or after business hours. It also sends the message to senders that they, too, can shut out the work world when they’re off hours.
To be honest, I had trouble with this tip myself—but as someone who bothered people before and after business hours. I admit that I honestly thought sending in my magazine articles to my editors on weekends and before office hours made me look more productive. After all, the articles were coming in early. Wouldn’t my editors love that? But, during the pandemic when we were all suddenly re-evaluating the value of work/life balance, I realized my emails were actually encroaching on my editors’ free time. Even if they did nothing with the articles until Monday at 9 am, when my emails hit their home phone or personal computer, these editors were being forced to think about their job on the days or during the hours when they should be free from work. I realized then that I should always use the schedule delivery option on my emails to ensure my articles arrived during business hours only unless the editor specified that she wanted them earlier.
6. During vacations or quality time with family or friends, tell them you’ll be putting non-essential work aside. Announcing your intention makes you more likely to stick with it because you’ve made a promise to loved ones to focus on being in the moment with them.
7. Reward yourself when you successfully leave job or home responsibilities behind. For example, promise yourself something you love, such as a long soak in the tub or an episode of a favorite TV show. I love this tip since it’s a simple way to provide positive reinforcement that helps shape new habits. You know you’ll have the reward to look forward to, which makes you motivated to stick to your new plan.
Those were my 7 suggestions for finding ways you can ensure you put aside work and home responsibilities during your off-hours. I hope you find them helpful.
Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Happiness Upgrade Podcast. I hope the mood-boosting tips that you heard today help you give yourself a Happiness Upgrade.
This podcast was inspired by my book, The Happiness Upgrade: One Small Step Up to a Happier Life. This book shows you how small, easy actions can halt an unwanted negative mood and lead to a rise in happiness. You can find my book, The Happiness Upgrade, at Amazon. It also introduces a simple method that helps turn any small act of self-care into a powerful tool to boost your mood. I think you’ll find it helpful!
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To learn more about the Happiness Upgrade Podcast, visit HappinessUpgrade.com. And follow me on TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by searching @happinessupgrade.
The Happiness Upgrade Podcast is written, edited and produced by me, Gabrielle Lichterman. If you like this show, please rate it. This helps other listeners find independently-created podcasts like mine.
I would love to connect with you and know how you give yourself a Happiness Upgrade. So, send me an email at Gabrielle@HappinessUpgradePress.com.
I hope your week is filled with happiness!