How being busy can actually be beneficial.

One can feel a multitude of ways about being “busy.” Some might cringe at the word while others might experience a sense of comfort and security in knowing how their time will be occupied. In our fast-paced society, driven by numbers and social media likes, it’s not uncommon to question if you’re doing too much (or little) and to yearn for a simpler life.

However, research in the field of psychology has found that being busy isn’t all bad and can actually assist to promote health, happiness and well-being. One study found that a full schedule consisting of engaging activities actually leads to increased cognition and improved memory in older adults. Furthermore, Hsee et al. (2010) found that people who are busy (but not overwhelmed) are happier overall than those who are less active, and Robinson (2013) identified that the happiest group of Americans are those who have little excess time, but seldom feel rushed.

Another benefit of being busy are the positives of lifelong learning, especially in the aging. Continuing to try new things and learn new skills is correlated to increased happiness, self-esteem, and sense of identity, according to Sabates and Hammond (2008). So take up a new hobby, learn a new trade, make conscious efforts to expand your knowledge and reap the benefits of new friendships and talents while watching your confidence and life satisfaction grow.

It is important to note that not all busyness is created equal. There is a stark difference yet subtle line between the kind of pressure resulting from rising to meet a challenge that elicits “flow” and the anxiety triggered from being overwhelmed by an obstacle that causes stress. This distinction is eustress (excitement) versus distress (anxiety). It is therefore important to be conscious of what triggers feelings of busyness within you. Do you have a packed scheduled filled with engagements and activities you love and are passionate about that you look forward to? Or are you feeling overbooked and stretched too thin by too many obligations that you dread attending?

The trick to balancing a busy schedule is learning how to commit yourself to enough activities that you genuinely enjoy while leaving enough time in between events so as not to feel rushed without feeling idle. This sweet spot between stress and eustress is known as “flow,” and is considered by some psychologists to be the optimal state of human performance and experience.

Though staying busy might not be the answer to all of your problems, if done right, living an active and engaged life will benefit you in invaluable ways. The bottom line is to partake frequently in hobbies and practices that bring you happiness and fulfillment, all the while remembering to listen to your body for signs of fatigue–it knows best after all.


Graph from Forbes.

Featured image, artist unknown.