“Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’…into the future.” — Steve Miller
Why are there so many great tunes about time? It governs everything we do, so it really is the biggest deal imaginable. We can’t slow it down or speed it up, and we can’t get more of it. But what we can do is make the most of our time simply by doing what makes us happy. Happiness is its own reward and it’s the best-possible way to look after our mental health.
That said, we can’t do what we love all the time. Work can be a grind, people can be difficult, problems crop up, the vending machine steals our change…you get the idea. The key is to make time for the many free, easy activities that are known to boost happiness.
Spending time outdoors
Of the top 10 activities that make people happy, more than half involve time outside, a new British study reports. Fishing, walking, gardening, running and nature-watching all made the cut, and if we include the No. 1 diversion — “making love” — then it’s pretty clear getting outside seriously heightens happiness.
How to make time: Walk or run to work or during your lunch break, and pick a route through a park; move gardening onto your list of household chores; carve out a couple hours on the weekend for some fishing — and bring a blanket and some bug spray when your significant other decides to join you!
“Hobbies, arts, crafts” falls just outside the Top 10 at No. 12, but several Top-20 happiness boosters — birdwatching, puzzles, singing — could be considered hobbies. And if you recognize the lyrics listed above, you probably enjoy activity No. 17: “Listening to music.”
How to make time: Music appreciation is ideal for multitasking — slap on some headphones and you can do it on your morning stroll, at work, while gardening or fishing, and while making love (headphones off). Hobbies, meanwhile, may require space as well as time, so look to the garage, basement, garden shed or spare bedroom to make them happen.
Just hanging out
“Talking, chatting, socialising” comes in at No. 7, and for good reason: Relaxing, laughing and sharing our troubles with buddies are ideal ways to shrug off the stresses of everyday life. This may be especially true for men, as evidenced by a 2013 British study that found that men should get together with other male friends at least two times a week to reap health benefits including faster recovery from illness.
How to make time: Most of the activities on this list are great for groups, and when it comes to making time, remember: There’s strength in numbers. Be there for your buddies.