Attitude towards leisure and impact on mental health

“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.”- Dr Steven R. Covey, Author, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Dr Covey, in the above book, mentions the importance of taking care of our minds and bodies so that we can function at our best.  One such way to take care of our mind could be through some amount leisure activities.

Previous posts discussed various leisure activities and benefits of leisure activities on mental health.

This post looks at how our attitudes towards leisure activities can impact enjoyment and mental health.

What is leisure?

One definition of leisure is pleasurable activities that individuals engage in voluntarily when they are free from the demands of work or other responsibilities (1).

What was the study? (2)

Tonietto and colleagues published a paper that included 4 studies with a total of 1310 participants, looking at attitude towards leisure and its impact (2).

What activities were studied? (2)

  • Hanging out with friends
  • Relaxing
  • Watching TV
  • Hobbies
  • Exercising
  • Meditating
  • Volunteering

What were the results?

  • In studies 1 and 2, people with a general tendency to find leisure wasteful report lower enjoyment of leisure activities on average, especially activities performed as an end in itself vs those performed as a means to an end (2).
  • Studies 1 and 2 also show that the belief that leisure is wasteful is also associated with lower reported happiness, and greater reported depression, anxiety, and stress (2).
  • Studies 3 and 4 (looking at causality)  show that believing that leisure is wasteful or unproductive reduces enjoyment of terminally-motivated leisure activities; but believing that leisure is productive does not increase enjoyment (2).

What does this mean?

  • According to this set of studies (2), participants having a negative attitude towards leisure activities experienced a negative impact from doing them.
  • The results were true whether the leisure activity was active (exercising) or passive (watching TV), social (hanging out with friends) or solitary (meditating) (2).

Other examples of healthy leisure activities (3) can be found here.

  • When balancing work and self care, different people might benefit from different types and amount of play during leisure time. How much and what type of leisure is best for you? What is your attitude towards leisure and how does/did this impact its potential benefit to you?

Campus resources on leisure:

Other useful resources on campus: https://ccs.osu.edu/services/mental-health-support

Learn more about play: https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2016/09/28/study-play-and-leisures-impact-on-mood-stress-and-wellbeing/

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By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Zhang J, Zheng Y.  How do academic stress and leisure activities influence college students’ emotional well-being? A daily diary investigation. J Adolesc. 2017 Oct;60:114-118. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.08.003. Epub 2017 Aug 23.
  2. Gabriela N. Tonietto, Selin A. Malkoc, Rebecca Walker Reczek, Michael I. Norton, Viewing leisure as wasteful undermines enjoyment,Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 97,2021,104198,ISSN 0022-1031, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2021.104198.
  1. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/category/recess/

Technology, Electronics, and Mental Health

With online classes, distance learning, homework time, and remote work; people are increasingly spending more time with electronic devices and technology than in the past.  This increased screen time for work, school may cause previously used screen time for leisure activities not as restorative; as this may increase total screen time and sedentary behavior.

Zhai and colleague’s review of 24 studies shows that too much screen time (> 6 hours per day) can impact depression (1).  Similar, a review of 31 studies concluded that sedentary behavior may also impact anxiety (2).

More devices are now available than ever before: computers, televisions, tablet pcs, smartphones, smart watches, etc.

While healthy technology use can have benefits of productivity, social connection, entertainment,  and improved health; unhealthy technology use can worsen our distraction,  isolate us socially, increase stress, expose us negative social influences; and negatively impact our health.

The American Psychological Association (3) offers the following strategies to use technology in healthy ways:

  1. Avoid distracted driving (3): APA advises us to turn off notifications and place your phone out of reach when driving.
  2. Avoid electronic devices before bedtime (3). Previous research showed blue light from electronic devices used at bedtime can impact sleep (4), stressful material on electronic devices can also interfere with our ability to fall asleep (3).
  3. When smartphone users turned off smartphone notifications, they reported lower levels of inattention and hyperactivity than they did during weeks when their notifications were turned on (3, 5).  Frequent notifications were also associated with lower levels of productivity, social connectedness and psychological well-being (3,5).
  4. Schedule time for email, when possible. People who checked email continuously reported more stress than those who checked email only three times per day (3, 6).
  5. Manage expectations (3). If possible, schedule time to check messages, email, notifications etc and if possible, let others (family members, boss, etc) know how often you do this, to help manage their expectations.
  6. While social media can help us connect with others, it can also impact feelings of sadness or depression (3, 7), other people may find it helpful. Consider how social media use makes you feel and adjust your use accordingly.
  7. Face to face interactions are important for mental health. The 2017 Stress in America survey found 44 percent of people who check email, texts and social media often or constantly report feeling disconnected from their family, even when they’re together (3). When you’re with friends and family, make an effort to unplug: consider silencing your phone and put it out of reach at dinnertime or during family outings (3).
  8. Disconnect: Instead of grabbing your phone during spare time, disconnect from electronics to reflect, recharge, relax; and collect yourself (3).

To counteract excessive screen time, sedentary behavior from remote work/learning, consider the following:

  • Periodic breaks away from the screen, even a few minutes per hour may help.
  • Stretching, walking during these breaks may be helpful.
  • Instead of mindless “infinite” scrolling, consider your goal before starting a device or program.
  • Consider time outside, in nature and other leisure activities for mental health.
  • Exercise, playing sports can also help address the negative mental health effects of excessive sedentary behavior and screen time.
  • Check out mindful technology use by OSU Digital Flagship

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Zhai L, Zhang Y, Zhang D. Sedentary behaviour and the risk of depression: a meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2015 Jun;49(11):705-9. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-093613. Epub 2014 Sep 2. PMID: 25183627.
  2. Stanczykiewicz B, Banik A, Knoll N, Keller J, Hohl DH, Rosińczuk J, Luszczynska A. Sedentary behaviors and anxiety among children, adolescents and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2019 Apr 30;19(1):459. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-6715-3. PMID: 31039760; PMCID: PMC6492316.
  3. Ballard D. Connected and content: Managing healthy technology use. American Psychological Association.  https://www.apa.org/topics/healthy-technology-use
  4. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/07/17/blue-blockers-and-other-ways-to-reduce-electronics-induced-sleep-disruption-and-daytime-tiredness/
  5. Kostadin Kushlev, Jason Proulx, and Elizabeth W. Dunn. 2016. “Silence Your Phones”: Smartphone Notifications Increase Inattention and Hyperactivity Symptoms. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’16). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1011–1020. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/2858036.2858359
  6. Kostadin Kushlev, Elizabeth W. Dunn, Checking email less frequently reduces stress, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 43, 2015, Pages 220-228, ISSN 0747-5632, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.005.

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214005810)

  1. Lin LY, Sidani JE, Shensa A, Radovic A, Miller E, Colditz JB, Hoffman BL, Giles LM, Primack BA. ASSOCIATION BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA USE AND DEPRESSION AMONG U.S. YOUNG ADULTS. Depress Anxiety. 2016 Apr;33(4):323-31. doi: 10.1002/da.22466. Epub 2016 Jan 19. PMID: 26783723; PMCID: PMC4853817.

 

Art activities and mental health

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

In a national survey of over 31 thousand college students, about 31% of college students report stress impacting their academics, followed by anxiety (25%), and depression (16%). (1).

Excessive stress can also lead to depression and anxiety (2).

A previous post looked at leisure activities and mental health.

Activities involving ART may also help with improving mental health which can then help with academics.

Are there examples of research on art activities and mental health?

  • Sandmire and colleagues showed that art making therapy can help with pre-test anxiety among undergraduate students, done upto 1 week before exams (3).
  • Abbing and colleagues showed that art making therapy can improve symptoms of anxiety among women diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder or panic disorder, with moderate to severe anxiety symptoms.  These were 10-12 sessions lasting 45-60 minutes (4).
  • In a study of 85 undergraduate students, free choice coloring, where they could color an image using any colors they wanted; showed an improvement in anxiety and mood (5).
  • In an experimental replication study, after inducing an anxious mood via a writing activity, participants were randomly assigned to three groups that colored either on a mandala design, on a plaid design, or on a blank paper (6). They found that coloring a mandala reduces anxiety to a significantly greater degree than coloring on a plaid design or coloring on a blank paper (6).

What are some caveats?

  • These are small studies in specific populations which does not tell us about all populations.
  • Further research in this area is needed.

Anything else that can help?

In addition to art, the following activities can also help with physical and emotional health:

  • Healthy lifestyle habits(healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, relaxation skills, healthy sleep habits, etc.) (7)
  • Avoiding harmful habits(smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol, etc) (7)
  • This balance might vary from person to person.
  • Healthy ways of thinking and managing emotions through counseling and medications when appropriate.

Different people might benefit from different types of art. What type of art is best for you?

Campus resources:

Any other useful resources on campus:

Learn more about play and mental health:

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/09/22/mental-health-benefits-of-leisure-activities/

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2016/09/28/study-play-and-leisures-impact-on-mood-stress-and-wellbeing/

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2017. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2018.
  2. Khan S, Khan RA (2017) Chronic Stress Leads to Anxiety and Depression. Ann Psychiatry Ment Health 5(1): 1091.
  3. David Alan Sandmire, Sarah Roberts Gorham, Nancy Elizabeth Rankin & David Robert Grimm (2012) The Influence of Art Making on Anxiety: A Pilot Study, Art Therapy, 29:2, 68-73, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2012.683748
  4. Abbing, A., Baars, E. W., de Sonneville, L., Ponstein, A. S., & Swaab, H. (2019). The Effectiveness of Art Therapy for Anxiety in Adult Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in psychology10, 1203. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01203
  5. Judy Eaton & Christine Tieber (2017) The Effects of Coloring on Anxiety, Mood, and Perseverance, Art Therapy, 34:1, 42-46, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2016.1277113
  6. Renée van der Vennet & Susan Serice (2012) Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? A Replication Study, Art Therapy, 29:2, 87-92, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2012.680047
  7. Trainor, P. Delfabbro, S. Anderson, A. Winefield. Leisure activities and adolescent psychological well-being. Journal of Adolescence, 33 (1) (2010), pp. 173-186.