The American Time Use Survey, reports from which are featured on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, reveal some interesting data about how people spend time. Of particular interest here are two activities, television and Internet usage, that consume significant portions of available leisure time. For example, watching TV accounted for half of the leisure time available to men and women (2.62 and 2.88 hours per day on average). As might be expected, young people from 15-19 spend more leisure time on computers than people of other ages. The average for this age group was around 50 minutes per day. In contrast, leisure activity involving sports, exercise or other types of recreation averaged slightly less than 30 minutes per day.
The implications of these statistics for health should be apparent. Sedentary activities may be interesting, but they don't provide the kind of movement necessary for maintaining fitness, including strength, endurance, and proper body mass index (percentage of fat) to avoid risk of obesity, heart disease and other chronic conditions. Movement burns calories, and regular exercise coupled with moderate and appropriate food intake helps to maintain weight within healthy limits.
How people use time, obviously, not only has significant consequences for physical fitness, but it also influences other types of "psychological fitness", such as how interested or bored they are, and how challenged or motivated they may be to participate in activities that lead to skill development, accomplishment, and improvements in self-esteem or self confidence. Research shows that when people are successful in new activities or projects, they are more inclined to undertake additional challenges. These cumulative successes create the sense of meaning that we need to live our lives with energy and purpose .
Unfortunately, time use surveys have not yet begun to gather data on qualitative factors, such as the feelings one might have that are associated with doing a particular activity. Part of those feelings, of course, are based on the context in which an activity is done ( that is, who is with us, what motivated us, what need will be served, etc.); but time use scientists generally feel that the opportunity exists for gathering more qualitative data in such surveys.
As time use science evolves, there will be more objective evidence to provide guidance to people on how to design their lives for optimal health and happiness. This is just another part of the interdisciplinary science of everyday living.
DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Great Links About What, How, Why, Where and How Often People Do Things
- Calculate your Life Expectancy
- O*Net - A terrific resource to get information about work related occupations
- Wisdom—A must see project of shared experience
- Brian R Little- About Personal Projects
- Authentic Happiness - Take the Work-Life Questionnaire
- wdydwdyd? (Why do you do what you do?)
- Calculate your weekly Time Use
- Bureau of Labor Statistics -American Time Use Survey
- ► February (7)
Interesting Books about Doing and Not Doing
- Bateson, Mary Catherine—Composing a Life
- Bruner, Jerome—Acts of Meaning: Four Lectures On Mind and Culture
- Christiansen, Charles & Townsend, Elizabeth—Introduction to Occupation: The Art and Science of Living
- Csíkszentmihályi, Mihaly— Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
- Diener, Ed, & Biswas-Diener, Robert—Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth.
- Edgell, Stephen—The Sociology of Work: Continuity and Change in Paid and Unpaid Work
- Gini, Al—The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure and Vacations
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon—Whereever You Go, There You Are
- Little, Brian; Salmela-Aro, Katerina; and Phillips, Susan D. — Personal Projects Analysis: Goals, Actions and Human Flourishing
- Matuska, K & Christiansen, C. — Life Balance -Multidisciplinary Theories and Research
- McAdams, Dan P. —The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self
- Robinson, John & Godbey, Geoffrey — Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time
- Seligman, Martin—Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment
- Tolle, Eckhart—The Power of Now