Many of the hobbies with which we fill our days take us away from activities that could provide us with real pleasure and personal development.
Martin Seligman –the greatest exponent of positive psychology– identifies three types of strategies in the pursuit of happiness: the pleasant life, the committed life and the meaningful life.
However, this way of achieving wellness has drawbacks. Studies show that 50% of our positive emotions are inherited and not very malleable; consequently, they tend to normalization or habituation.
The first chocolate ice cream you drink will generate indescribable pleasure. But the fourteenth will have already become normal and, therefore, you will find yourself in the need to somehow increase the intensity of the stimulus to experience the same degree of pleasure.
It is increasingly common to hear the complaints of disappointed parents at the lack of enthusiasm of their children to receive the gifts they have chosen so carefully for them. It is not always about ungrateful children; simply, being exposed to so many external stimuli that generate pleasure, they require, more and more, a greater intensity to perceive the same degree of satisfaction.
THE DANGERS OF EMPTY ENTERTAINMENT
The same thing happens to us. We make use of all kinds of forms of entertainment that the only thing they provide us with is drug addiction and addiction, seeking to evade our thoughts and feelings.
We understand entertainment as the opposite of boredom, and we translate it into the need for constant activity, when often what helps us to feel satiated and satisfied, happy, is the enjoyment of everyday things in the absence of activity and distraction.
Hobbies such as virtual games, watching television or swarming through social networks have nothing wrong if it were not because dedicating all our free time to them turns them into toxic practices whose sole purpose is to distract us from what we do not like about ourselves.
A good friend, who holds a managerial position in one of the main Spanish publishing houses, explained to me that the already low reading habit of Spaniards seems to be falling even more due to the ease with which our mobile devices can replace any other activity. The question is: If we were given the choice between identifying with the habit of enjoying reading and browsing Facebook, which of the two would make us feel better, more satisfied and prouder of ourselves?
ARE YOU PROUD OF YOUR HOBBIES?
The second way a person can seek fulfillment is through a lifetime of commitment to all that they love to do.
It is the feeling we experience when we share time with our people, when we do work that makes us enjoy, when we surround ourselves with friends who help us learn, when our leisure time is rich.
The difference between pleasure and flow is that the former consists in the perception of an intense and clear sensation. On the other hand, when you flow you don’t feel anything and time stops; it ties in with the music you are listening to at a particular time, for example. This type of people is also characterized by their ability to identify their strengths and rethink their vital processes, making the most of these virtues.
The third group is made up of people who choose to have a life endowed with a great sense as a motor to achieve delight and happiness. They know what their highest qualities are and they use them in the service of a goal that transcends them, understanding by transcendence something that exceeds them, that is clearly superior to them. Studies confirm that pleasure alone is hardly related to the perception of satisfaction and sufficiency. The search for meaning and commitment, however, do appear as very clear indicators of well-being. But studies also show another curious fact: the experience of pleasure does have an intensifying and enhancing effect on the feeling of happiness that the other two strategies provide us.
PLEASURE AND WEALTH ARE JUST “THE ICING ON THE CAKE”
It seems, then, that the ideal to which we must strive is to procure for ourselves a life oriented towards noble goals, a life of commitment and a life of pleasures. These are certainly important to raise our quality of life, provided that we do not lose sight of the fact that, by themselves, they are not very useful.
Sleep, rest, sex or a good meal are pleasant experiences that help to reconstitute what experts call homeostasis , that is, they reduce our disorder or entropy: they restore the imbalance generated by the basic needs of our body. Pleasure helps us to recover the order that we had, but, by itself, it does not allow us to increase it.
Despite the evidence of these data, the myth of King Midas illustrates very well our tenacity and persistence to achieve happiness through material and external stimuli.
King Midas thought that if he accumulated a large amount of wealth, his well-being and happiness would be guaranteed. And that was what he prayed to the gods, who, after a long process of negotiation and bargaining, acceded to his wishes. They granted him that everything he touched turned to gold. Midas thought that he had managed to make a good business and that, when he became the richest man on the face of the Earth, nothing would tarnish his happiness.
However, we know how the story ends. And not very well. What was not his bad fortune that, every time he tried to eat or drink something, it turned to gold in his mouth before he was able to drink it or take a bite. And so, he died, surrounded by gold dishes and delicacies without being able to enjoy his luck.
We live in constant incongruity. We know that passing amusements are not enough to satisfy us, but, paradoxically, for some mysterious reason, we insist that money, prestige, physical appearance, or social status provide us with inner contentment. Everything in life can be a source of delight, but the ability to convert it into an effective experience of happiness and joy resides only within us. This is where we must look.
HOW TO GET MORE OUT OF YOUR FREE TIME
EVALUATE YOUR ACTIVITIES
Try to describe what you spend your free time on and identify which hobbies you have are healthy and which are toxic. Determine the quality of the activities and what each one of them brings you.
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO LEARN
What are your little pending subjects? What it is something you’ve always wanted to make and have never found the time? Incorporate it into your free time to enjoy the pleasure of doing what you like the most.
CHECK HOW YOU DISTRIBUTE YOUR HOURS
Ponder the time you dedicate to your hobbies. Although there are occasional trivialities among your hobbies, there is nothing wrong with enjoying it if it involves occupying a small part of your free time.
STRENGTHEN YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Reflect on the type of people with whom you relate, and what you are looking for in each of them.
If, for the most part, they play an interesting role and make contributions of certain meaning to your life, you will consolidate the pleasure you experience in their company. If not, make an effort to find environments where you can meet people who add wealth to your free time.
TRY TO CHANGE BUT DON’T BLAME YOURSELF
If you have almost no free time to dedicate to your hobbies, try to redefine the responsibilities that occupy your day to day and measure what they bring you. In any case, congratulate yourself on making the most of the little you have.