For some it’s packing the golf clubs in the car trunk and heading off; or maybe stopping by the fabric store to pick up some quilting materials.
It’s called taking a break to pursue a favorite pastime. But for those carrying a bit of guilt for engaging in play, experts say it’s time to put those negative feelings aside.
Enjoying leisure activities may improve a person’s well-being, even if that beloved golf ball ends up in the rough.
Dr. Daniel A. Weinberg, a board-certified psychiatrist at Watson Clinic in Lakeland says, “We have learned with the advancement of science that emotions, feelings, and moods are regulated by a combination of our environment, genetics and neurochemicals.”
A person’s supply of neurochemicals is not unlimited. “In order to feel good, we need to take time to regenerate these chemicals,” Weinberg elaborates. “If we allow stress to overwhelm us, these chemicals will not regenerate and we may become depressed and anxious. Doing things that we enjoy allows our body to rest and promotes regeneration of our neurochemicals.”
Lower blood pressure, healthier weight and better sleep habits are all linked to pleasurable pursuits, according to a study published in the journal, “Psychosomatic Medicine.”
The detour from routine can also boost a person’s self-esteem, the ability to cope with stress and an overall enhancement of life, say health counselors.
However, despite the proven benefits of “me time,” people often experience guilt when they take time for themselves.
“Children, spouses, jobs and friends all demand a certain amount of our neurochemicals,” Weinberg says. “As altruistic beings, it is our nature to give it to them. Thus, when we take time for ourselves, it can lead to us feeling guilty.”
If you feel guilty about taking time for yourself, then remember that we have to help ourselves before we can help others. None of us have an unlimited supply of empathy or energy. It is imperative that we take time for ourselves or else we will burn out and be unable to help others.
“We cannot care for others unless we care for ourselves,” says Linda Munday, ARNP, the Clinical Manager at Lakeland Regional Medical Center in the area of Behavior and Addiction Medicine. “Leisure time provides us the opportunity to become more centered and emotionally available to others.”
In addition, a person’s interests are a positive way to create self-definition, especially in post-work life. Instead of a retiree telling people what she used to do, she can say she’s a golfer or quilter.
story by BEV BENNETT