Research on relaxation vs. hustle culture

After I first took my now-husband to Turkey, I attempted to organize myself for something that might go unsuitable—delayed flights, language difficulties, digestion points.

However I wasn’t prepared when, as we walked into a phenomenal seaside membership on the Aegean coast, he grumbled, “What are we going to do?”

“What do you imply?” I mentioned. “Lie down, benefit from the solar and the ocean.”


“However what in regards to the issues to do: seaside volleyball, Frisbees, water sports activities?”

“There isn’t any of that. We’re simply right here to loosen up.”

This was the primary time I bought a way of our cultural variations. He’s American, and I’m Turkish. He wanted to “do stuff.” I wished to relax. Over time, he grew to become higher at enjoyable—extra Turkish, if you’ll.

However I began noticing all of the methods the crucial to “do stuff” saved marching alongside within the U.S.

It morphed and migrated into pithy catchphrases like YOLO “you solely reside as soon as” and “rise and grind.” I noticed it in the way in which folks bragged about how busy they were, as if it have been a badge of honor. And I seen it within the rise of “hustle culture,” or the collective urge to get as a lot accomplished in as little time as doable, whereas at all times holding an eye fixed on the following alternative.

Underlying all of it’s the perception that resting or enjoyable is a waste of time.

I questioned: How may these attitudes affect folks’s well-being? And are some cultures extra probably than others to advertise such beliefs?


Ruining all of the enjoyable

In a series of new studies I carried out with fellow advertising professors Gabbie Tonietto, Rebecca Reczek, and Mike Norton, we took a stab at discovering some solutions.

In a single research, 141 undergraduate college students participated at our behavioral lab at The Ohio State College. They arrived to finish a collection of surveys by which we requested them the extent to which they agreed with sure statements: “Time spent on leisure actions is usually wasted time,” “Most leisure actions are a strategy to burn time,” which measured whether or not they endorsed the concept that leisure is pointless.

Throughout these in any other case monotonous and tedious research, contributors watched 4 humorous and common YouTube movies that have been rated entertaining by a special set of contributors. After watching all 4 movies, contributors indicated how a lot they loved them.

We discovered that contributors who believed leisure to be wasteful didn’t benefit from the movies as a lot.

In a follow-up research, we requested contributors to point how a lot they loved partaking in quite a lot of leisurely experiences—some energetic, like exercising, and a few passive, like watching TV. Others have been social—hanging out with pals—or solitary, resembling meditating.

We discovered that those that seen leisure as wasteful tended to get much less enjoyment out of all the several types of actions. Moreover, these folks have been additionally extra more likely to be pressured, anxious, and depressed.

An angle that’s robust to shake

In a special research, we wished to see the extent to which this was a uniquely American phenomenon. So we recruited contributors from France, the U.S., and India—nations chosen for being low, medium, and excessive, respectively, on Hofstede’s industry-indulgence dimension, which captures the extent to which a given culture is work-oriented and values self-reliance.

We requested them to point the diploma to which they agreed with the concept that leisure is wasteful. In line with the prevailing stereotypes, there have been far fewer French contributors who believed that leisure was wasteful in comparison with American and, particularly, Indian ones.

However French individuals who held a detrimental view of leisure have been as more likely to be pressured, anxious, and depressed as their American and Indian counterparts. So whereas Individuals and Indians may extra readily consider that leisure is wasteful, the implications of holding this perception are common.

To us, this revealed how entrenched the assumption that leisure is wasteful could be.


One other research affirmed it. On this one, contributors learn an article that both mentioned the efficacy of espresso makers or described leisure in one in all three doable methods: wasteful, unproductive, or productive. Individuals then performed the online game Tetris for 5 minutes and advised us how fulfilling it was. We discovered that those that learn an article describing leisure as wasteful and unproductive didn’t benefit from the sport as a lot as those that examine leisure being productive or examine espresso makers.

Nonetheless, describing leisure as productive didn’t improve enjoyment past its baseline ranges. So it seems that framing leisure as productive—say, as a great way to handle stress or recharge your batteries—doesn’t improve how a lot folks get pleasure from leisure.

Not all leisure is equal

Within the research I described above, we centered completely on what psychologists name “terminal leisure”—leisure that takes place purely for enjoyment.

This differs from “instrumental leisure”—leisure that may serve a bigger objective, like making pals or staying wholesome, and subsequently feels extra productive.

So we explored whether or not the detrimental attitudes towards leisure can be much less detrimental for instrumental leisure actions.

In 2019, on the Monday after Halloween, we requested contributors to recall what they did and inform us how a lot they loved it. We discovered the assumption that leisure was wasteful was significantly detrimental for the enjoyment of terminal actions like going to a celebration. Then again, it boosted the enjoyment of instrumental actions, resembling taking their children trick-or-treating, which may very well be seen as a bonding expertise.

The excellent news? Whether or not a selected exercise is terminal or instrumental leisure is relative and relies upon on the particular person and the scenario. For example, folks might train for enjoyable (a terminal motivation) or to drop a few pounds (an instrumental motivation). The body can at all times be modified.

It may not be simple to alter what you consider about leisure. However by reframing leisurely actions as instrumental, extra folks can hopefully reap their true advantages: satisfaction, recuperation, improved psychological well being—and, sure, chilling on the seaside for the sake of chilling on the seaside.