Mental health disorders, academic burnout and fatigue, anxiety — all of these are increasingly becoming a serious concern for college students.
According to the American Psychological Association, more than 60% of college students meet the criteria for having at least one mental health problem. Other surveys, such as one provided by the American College Health Association, show that nearly three-quarters of college students report struggling with moderate to severe psychological distress.
While there are many reasons why this could be happening, some new reports have found that there may be a connection between mental health and how students spend their leisure time.
Fighting Mental Health Disorders With Leisure
A study from Psychological Research and Behavior Management found that students who found time for weekly leisure activities had a more positive sense of well-being. However, another study from the Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology found that if a student views their leisure time as wasteful, then it can negatively impact their enjoyment and lead to poorer mental health.
So what is the answer? Should students be allowing themselves more leisure time or not?
Leisure time has long been shown to offer a host of mental and physical health benefits. So the answer is not that students shouldn’t engage in leisure, but rather they might need to change their perception of leisure time and how they spend it. Instead of viewing leisure time as wasteful, they should see it as an important aspect of achieving greater success in school and beyond.
All work and no play is a sure way to start experiencing academic burnout. However, the type of play or leisure engaged in can also make a difference. If students are struggling with viewing their leisure time as beneficial, then the answer might be that they need to engage in more fulfilling activities that don’t feel wasteful.
Ways to Enjoy Leisure Time That Can Improve Student Well-Being
Every student is unique and not all of them will necessarily struggle with feeling like their leisure time is wasteful. That said, it can help to engage in leisure activities that are both enjoyable and those that are resume-boosting — i.e. help the student potentially learn a new skill that benefits their chosen career path.
1. Time Management
Time management skills are crucial both in school and beyond. If a student is struggling to find balance in their life, they may need to spend some time honing their time management skills.
This can be something they can do in their leisure time and it is also something that might help them find more time in their schedule for enjoying other activities outside of their classes and schoolwork. The three main things to learn when attempting to improve time management include planning ahead, getting more organized, and staying on top of deadlines.
It’s important for leisure activities to be fun and not just feel like another chore. However, if a student feels like playing games is a waste of time, it can help to find more educational games and actually teach them useful skills.
For example, card games can teach students about business, which is an important trade to understand, even if they aren’t a business major. Playing cards can teach you how to read other people, how to negotiate without bluffing, knowing when to stay strong and when to fold, how to stay organized, and how to prepare for the unpredictable. These are all skills that students can benefit from when they start applying for jobs.
Pursuing a passion or having a hobby is also an important leisure activity. Even if the hobby doesn’t seem related to the student’s chosen field, having these things on a resume can add depth that can help them land their dream job. Many employers look for applicants who are well-rounded and display passion and enthusiasm for their hobbies as it shows they have discipline, creativity, and perseverance.
Traveling is an excellent way to spend free time as it offers cultural immersion that can teach students so many things about themselves and about others. Traveling to new places, for example, can force students out of their comfort zones, which can teach them how to adapt to unpredictable situations. This can also teach them to have a more open mind and critical communication skills.
Spending leisure time learning a new language is a great way to have fun and learn a new skill that will look excellent on a resume. Companies love hiring people who are multilingual, especially if they often deal with international clients.
There are many applications today that make learning a new language more fun so it doesn’t feel like work. Language learning has also been shown to enhance other skills, such as innovation, problem-solving, and memory.
It’s important for college students to engage in wellness activities that are genuinely for their personal well–being, such as watching a movie or spending time with friends. However, to ensure leisure time doesn’t start feeling wasteful, it helps to find a balance between leisure that is purely for fun and relaxation, and leisure that can enhance skills that contribute to academic and career success.