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How Killing Time is Killing Your Happiness

How Killing Time is Killing Your Happiness

With all of the political banter currently rattling the internet, it's easier than ever to "kill time"--between meetings, on the commute home, or even walking to class. However, the concept of killing time is, not only a terribly violent metaphor, but also an activity ill-conducive to happiness.

Why? First, because it is a circuitous way of saying, "I'm going to waste some time." It's unsurprising, then, that these activities--scrolling through your Facebook feed, playing a mindless game on your phone, or half-listening to the latest episode of Chopped--invariably leave you feeling unfulfilled. You never had real interest in doing them in the first place. Remember when your freshman English professor warned about adding "fluff" to your essays? That's exactly what you're doing when you kill time; you're adding fluff to your life. 

But there's another reason why killing time is detrimental to happiness: it is a tangible demonstration that you are not living in the present. By treating intervals of time between events as expendable, you are inhabiting a perpetual state of anticipation, hopping from activity to activity like an excited electron.

What's the solution? It starts with that ever-popular buzz-word: mindfulness. Just like any bad habit, it takes some conscious effort to break time-wasting tendencies, but it begins with a little temporal appreciation. Instead of thinking about that train ride home as a 30-minute desert of mental boredom, reframe your thinking. Turn it into an opportunity to brainstorm a plot for that novel you've always wanted to write or, less romantically perhaps, use it to write next week's grocery list. 

If you remain skeptical, do an experiment. Next time you have some down-time—maybe before a conference call or after having dinner with your family—try doing something productive. How do you define productive? Pick one of the more pleasurable items on your to-do list. Instead of reading article after article on BuzzFeed, grab a pen and paper and brainstorm Christmas present ideas for your mom. Or maybe there’s a recipe that keeps popping up on your Facebook feed. Instead of catatonically watching the “how-to” video on repeat, go to the pantry, get out some ingredients, and get cooking!

It is easy to fool yourself into thinking that browsing the internet or binging a second-rate show you're only vaguely interested in makes you happier, but I promise you’ll find yourself significantly more satisfied once you replace these mindless activities with something productive. 

This is not to say, of course, that browsing Reddit, reading Facebook feeds, or watching second rate television are not sometimes satisfying and appropriate activities. If you enjoy doing any of them, by all means--engage! Just make sure you're doing it as a priority, rather than as a means of committing temporal homicide. 

Reasons to be Happy: Neurotransmitters

Reasons to be Happy: Neurotransmitters