"Play" is as important to a person's health as keeping cholesterol levels in check and getting regular exercise.
Researchers have suggested that leisure may be the best medicine for many people - from refreshing the mind and psychological well being to physical fitness and rejuvenation of the body.
AdvertisementLeisure expert E. Christine Moll of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, says 'play' is as important to a person's health as keeping cholesterol levels in check and getting regular exercise.
"It airs out our brain. It renews our spirit. It gives us clarity of thought. It's a benefit to our blood pressure. It gives us life satisfaction. For all the dimensions of our lives, 'leisure time should be a necessity not a luxury'," she said.
Moll said the first step to adding leisure to your life is to determine how much leisure is lacking.
"If you can't remember the last time you took time for just you, it is time for a change," she said.
"What have you done for yourself, lately? When was the last time you did something just for fun or just for the health of it? If your answer is 'I read a book a year ago', then you need to do more. Whether it's cooking, needlework, golfing or whatever, put leisure into your life. It's important," she added.
Moll has defined leisure as anything that brings personal enjoyment to individuals and allows them to recharge their batteries.
She also noted that the biggest abusers of the all-work-and-no-play lifestyle are Baby Boomers.
"This generation often find it hard to put the breaks on, catch their breath and relax," she said.
Canisius researcher Summer M. Reiner examined the pivotal role leisure can play throughout a person's life.
"Findings show that people who nurture leisure activities throughout their lives have a much healthier outlook physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and in their sense of selves," she said.
In addition, she found that children who actively participate in leisure activities tend to grow into confident, active and satisfied adults.
Reiner's research also found that parents who nurture their leisure lives tend to manage stress better and are more prepared to handle 'empty nest syndrome'.
But she warns that parents should not trick themselves into thinking their children's activities count for their own leisure.
"Many parents say that's their enjoyment, watching their child's baseball or soccer game. But that is an aspect of parenting, not leisure. Parents need to develop their own leisure interests," she added.
Leisure can include anything from a crossword puzzle to a pickup game of basketball, but the activity must be freely chosen; provide satisfaction and adventure; arouse interest; require a commitment; serve as a sense of separation or escape and, most important, be pleasurable, said Moll.
Reiner's research was published in Counseling Today magazine.
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