What Does It Mean To Choose High Quality Leisure?

Have you ever spent time in front of a screen only to feel like you wasted part of your day / life when you finally emerge? That’s what Cal Newport describes as “low quality leisure.” It’s not the kind of leisure that gets your mind flowing, energizes your relationships, and strengthens your body.

High quality leisure does important things for us, from helping us rest to giving a confidence boost. These activities, especially ones where we are working with our hands, walking in nature or spending time on a project, allow our imagination to surge and give our minds time to process. The right leisure can create incredible memories, build relational bonds and open up new opportunities and dreams.

How many people seem to have “aha moments” after hiking to the top of a mountain or while boating in the open water? Once we’ve created space (which high quality leisure does), we open opportunities for our minds to regain clarity and focus.

Watching an occasional movie or checking Facebook for a few minutes in the evening can be valuable, but must be limited.

I’ve just finished reading a great book called Digital Minimalism. In addition to fascinating arguments for limiting our social media use and digital lives in general, author Cal Newport offers practical advice about how we are allowing technology to reshape us.

Low quality leisure is detrimental

We don’t know how to be alone with our thoughts. Every spare minute is filled up with quick fixes from our phones, including mindless scrolling as we repeat what we checked 15 seconds ago. We are like addicts, not wanting to stand alone with our thoughts.

Social media, news feeds and other digital aspects of our modern age are not designed to help you connect and grow; they are designed to keep your eyeballs glued in addictive ways. The more your eyes are glued, the more money they make. The more you check notifications, scroll through feeds and spend hours binge watching, the less control you have. Much like any addiction, it’s hard to break away.

Having every moment accounted for with no space or time to think outside the digital messages thrust upon us is detrimental to high quality leisure in our lives.

Carve out time for high quality leisure

Carving out time for high quality leisure can make a world of difference in your health, your attitude, your relationships, your spiritual life, your accomplishments and your happiness.

The first step may not be doing away with all low quality leisure. Instead, fill up your extra time with such high quality leisure that you don’t have time for the lesser. Be forewarned – this will probably require drastic measures like leaving your phone at home or in the car while you do something physical, active, and with space for your mind to refocus.

Build something. Write something. Take time to think. Walk. Read a book. Cook a new dish. Visit a new place. Play. Talk. Dream. Do something to add high quality leisure to your life. Don’t spend another evening just scrolling.

Digital Minimalism caused me to think more about high quality leisure and propelled me to take my Facebook and Twitter apps off my phone. I also wait until later in the morning to pick up my phone. I still want to be engaged, but I want it to be a valuable part of my day, not my whole day. This book is worth reading.


What’s your plan for rest and play?

Use leisure well.

Seven Sabbath ideas for ministry leaders.

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