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All work and no play? Striking the balance may be the key to life satisfaction 

The old saying about all work and no play has finally been put to the test and the results are in: it might actually be true. 

This is according to a new study on work-life balance led by Dr. Paul Hanel, an assistant professor at the University of Essex

The research suggests that balancing work and play may be the secret to happiness and life satisfaction.

Overemphasizing achievement 

The study, which spanned across three countries – India, Turkey, and the UK, revealed that individuals who prioritized achievement over enjoyment reported being less content.

Valuing Freedom

In addition, those who aimed for autonomy experienced a 13 percent surge in their overall well-being. Notably, these individuals also reported enhanced sleep quality and a heightened sense of life satisfaction.

Engaging in hobbies

Participants who took out time to unwind and indulge in their hobbies noted an 8 percent increase in well-being. Moreover, these individuals experienced a substantial 10 percent reduction in stress and anxiety levels.

Dr. Hanel said: “We all know the old saying ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ and this study shows it might actually be true.”

“There is no benefit to well-being in prioritizing achievement over fun and autonomy.”

Maintaining a balanced life 

Dr. Hanel emphasized the importance of maintaining a balanced life, stating that doing so might inadvertently lead to more success. 

“This research shows that there are real benefits to having a balanced life and taking time to focus on enjoying ourselves and following individual goals.”

“Ironically by doing this, people could in fact be more successful as they will be more relaxed, happier and satisfied.”

Focus of the study

Over 180 participants filled out diaries over a period of nine days, recording how different values influenced their moods and overall mental state. Regardless of nationality, the results were consistent. 

Happiness levels

Emphasizing values of “hedonism” and “self-direction” was directly correlated with increased happiness. On the other hand, values revolving around “achievement” and “conformity” did not affect happiness levels.

However, the team believes that the value of achievement might be linked to happiness when associated with job satisfaction or the frequency of workdays.

Achievement-oriented values 

Professor Greg Maio from the University of Bath, who collaborated on the research, mentioned how in today’s society, where achievement-oriented values dominate a large chunk of our lives, there’s an evident need to value freedom and other similar values to establish a balanced life.

“This multination project was an exciting foray into questions about how values affect well-being in day-to-day life. People often spend most of their days working hard for their daily income, studies, and careers.”

“Against this backdrop, where achievement-oriented values have ring-fenced a great portion of our time, we found that it helps to value freedom and other values just enough to bring in balance and recovery.”

Study implications 

“In the future, it will be interesting to consider how this pattern interacts with relevant traits, such as conscientiousness, and situational contexts, such as type of employment,” said Professor Maio.

The experts hope their research will influence mental health provision and inform therapeutic interventions.

“Our research further shows that it might be more important to focus on increasing happiness rather than reducing anxiety and stress, which is of course also important, just not as much,” said Dr. Hanel.

The study is published in the Journal of Personality.

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