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WORKHAPPY

Joe Szynkowski: Want work happiness? Get a hobby

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Has working from home cramped your style? At the end of the workday, do you find yourself shutting down your laptop, helping the kids with homework, cooking dinner, mowing the yard, and maybe – maybe – getting 20 minutes of TV time before bed?

Just me?

Don’t get me wrong. I can’t imagine not working from home. I’ve been fully remote since 2013 and don’t plan on going back into the office.

But I understand the pain of some of my friends as they struggle to find the coveted “work-life balance” that all the leadership gurus talk about.

I’ve mentioned struggling with workaholism in past columns. With technology at our fingertips, it’s easier now than ever before to slip into after-hours work.

And since leaving my full-time W2 role back in June, I can confirm that I still have a touch of this perceived sickness.

I can also confirm that if you don’t find something to occupy your time away from the computer or the office, you’re hurting your overall health.

Literally.

A recent study conducted by several psychologists of about 1,400 people found that people who said they engaged in enjoyable leisure activities had lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference and body mass index.

Researchers from the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology also found that the health boosts related to having a hobby actually lead to better work performance, stronger relationships and more creativity.

The health psychology team at the University of California, Merced also found that engaging in a mentally stimulating hobby reduces stress. Less stress means improved focus, happiness and a longer life.

Need more proof? Glance in the mirror.

Ask the over-worked person looking back at you how things are going. Are you getting enough “me” time? Are you finding enough joy in your personal hobbies? Have you traded in your hobbies for more work projects and chores around the house?

Depending on how you answer these questions, it may be time to get involved with some activities away from the office.

“I Don’t Have Enough Time”

I asked one executive leader this week to describe what he does for fun. “I don’t have enough time for fun,” he said. His approach was that if every second of the day wasn’t spent on work or serving his wife and kids, that it was wasted time.

Don’t tell my family, but I suggested he reconsider this philosophy. Even sneaking outside on your lunch break to shoot some hoops or to take the dog for a walk can do wonders for your mental and physical health.

Not to mention, your spouse and kids will notice the positive impact these actions can have on the family.

“I’m Too Out of Shape”

It’s time to ditch the excuses for our lack of exercise. A recent Medical News Today article stated that people who are less physically active than usual are experiencing more symptoms of mental health conditions during the pandemic.

At the same time, research physiologists with the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health point out that the U.S. workforce has trended toward desk jobs. This fosters a sedentary lifestyle, they say, that’s not good for overall heart health.

If you find yourself feeling less energized than in years past, there’s a reason for that. And if you can’t use that as fuel to get some exercise and fresh air, it’s time to have another talk with that person in the mirror.

Working remotely is fantastic. There are so many perks that make virtual workplaces here to stay. But it’s time to leverage the year-plus experience we have all lived through to make sure we’re doing our best to stay strong.

Take what hasn’t worked and throw it aside. Find what has worked and build on it for a healthier, happier you.

Joe Szynkowski is the happy founder and owner of The UpWrite Group, a small local firm that has offered corporate communications, personal branding, public relations, and ghostwriting services since 2008. Email Joe@TheUpWriteGroup.com for more information.

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