Listen to this episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast.
Amy Bushatz: No matter who you are or where you go heading outside, even for just a few minutes is well worth it. Welcome to Humans Outside where we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life habit around spending time in nature while learning from. Fascinating outdoor mind guests. I’m Amy Bushatz. I’ve let curiosity be my guide as a journalist for 19 years, but life, including my husband’s injuries from military service had us looking for a better way to live. So we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if an outdoor focused life was the answer. Since September, 2017, I’ve spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day, no matter what to explore, how nature can change my life, ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same. Let’s go.
It’s the number one barrier I hear when I suggest making, spending time in nature, a daily. Time in a world where everything is constantly demanding all we are willing to give and more, it’s hard to imagine slicing off even 20 minutes a day for outdoor time. Maybe, maybe it feels doable in the summer, but after school starts or when work is busy or when you’re feeling so harried by all the demands that you don’t even have time to think much less time to head outside for a nice to have habit?
You might know that I’m something of a productivity and time management junkie. I find the idea of squeezing every last drop of goodness from my daily 24 hour allotment to be absolutely irresistible. But the trade off is that while I have learned to be very productive, I don’t always feel very happy about it.
So, what if I told you the answer to both of these problems- not having enough time to have nice to haves, like going outside and being so good at time management that you’re very productive, but not very happy- have the same solution? That’s what happiness researcher, UCLA professor and author, Dr. Cassie Holmes is here to help us with today. Her new book, Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time and Focus on What Matters Most is available now and teaches readers, how to craft their time to bring a more joyful and meaningful life that can include the bandwidth for things that simply make you happy, like going outside. Today she’s going to walk us through some of those practical tips for time crafting and give you the tools to make joy filled habits like going outside daily a part of your life. Cassie, welcome to Humans Outside.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Oh, thank you so much for having me, Amy. This is a treat.
Amy Bushatz: I am so excited to talk to you today. As I mentioned, I am a time management junkie. I mean, we might have an intervention that needs to be made here. So maybe this is my intervention who can say.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Well, I mean, it’s terrific that you’re already thinking about it and trying to figure it out as. so many people are particularly, I mean, after this craziness that has been this pandemic um, it used to be that both happiness. So I’m a happiness and researcher, and that’s what I teach is, and also in particular, focusing on the role of time and historically being at a business school, I had to make the case for why happiness is important. And no longer do I have to make the case because sadly, anxiety, depression, everything has um, increased over the last uh, couple years.
And also, I don’t have to make the case for why time is important because all of us, so many people have, even those who are not time management junkies, like yourself, have all become really thoughtful about how are spending the time of our life, recognizing just how precious that is.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. I’m gonna go ahead and blame my mom for this problem. It was really self-preservation that drove it, but I have seven younger brothers and sisters and we were all homeschooled and I have very specific memories of having a like time blocking grid of my daily schedule from,
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Good for you.
Amy Bushatz: Ever since I can remember, right. That, from 6-6:30, piano practice, 6:30 to, you know, and on until bedtime every single day and so, you know, you learn how to dwell in that, and then you start getting this sneaking suspicion that it could be done better. And, And that’s how you get the me.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Um,
Amy Bushatz: Anyway.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Well, the fact that you’ve so deliberate in how you’re spending your time is a good thing, and I have all the research um, to support that. And so I can absolutely validate you. Good job.
Amy Bushatz: Excellent.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Um, and then there’s, you know, the sort of the next question is what is, what are those things that you’re blocking out? Are those sort of the best activities for you in terms of your fulfillment and long term happiness, and it, you seem pretty darn happy. So it seems like you’re doing it right. So you don’t even need me.
Amy Bushatz: Excellent. Podcast over. The end. We’re done now. Therapy session concluded. Thank you for your time.
OK. But in all seriousness, I can’t wait to give it your advice to, to everyone else and to myself, cuz we know this is a semi selfish pursuit.
We always start our episodes really kick off by imagining ourselves having a conversation with our guests, so you, in your favorite outdoor space. So if we were hanging out outside with you somewhere right now, where would we be?
Dr. Cassie Holmes: We would be at the beach in Santa Monica um, overlooking the Pacific ocean. That is my happy, happy place, regardless, irrespective of whether it’s outside or not. That is my happy place. And it is actually the place that has gotten me. I was speaking, of the pandemic has really sort of been my emotional salvation of being able to go to the beach. Um, you know, take the deep breaths, looking over the vast water, recognizing that perhaps this too shall pass the, so yeah, definitely so
Amy Bushatz: The ocean is so good for that. The ocean is so good for that. I think it has to do with the way, you know, because I, I grew up on a near a beach and so I think it has to do with the way that the waves come in and out. Right. They it’s almost like this rhythmic, things come and things go goodbye. Oh, And then they come back. Okay.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yeah, and even your footprints, right. It’s like, and walking with my kids and my husband in that sort of crazy time, particularly in the early days of the pandemic where it was just all so uncertain and really scary. And it’s like, we’re walking down the beach, we, and nobody else. Because everyone is at home, but we’re like we’re outside, so it’s okay. Um, and the footsteps they are there and then on our return back, they are not. So again, it’s helpful to recognize that time continues.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So tell, uh, tell us a little bit about your experience seeing time outside bringing you joy. How did this become of interest to you.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Um, well, it was sort of, after the fact of recognizing the outsideness of it. I am not an outdoorsy person. Like probably many of your listeners. Um, But I absolutely am someone who optimizes and has been researching this of how to spend time, as you mentioned in the introduction we have these sort of harried and busy lives that so often it’s sort of activities are happening to us. And we’re sort of saying yes to things. We rarely say no to things. And we take things on because we are in a very much of a do, do, do culture and mode. And then, but the question is, are all of those things that we’re spending time on really worth our time. And so I uh, that has actually been the crux of my investigation and what Happier Hour is about is figuring out how should we be spending our time.
And so one of the ways, I mean, you can do that is just reflect back over your last couple weeks and identify, you know, what are those times uh, that I felt um, the most joy and among my times, and I can say connection. And I can talk more about that because that actually, I think is sort of my um, mind as well as what the research suggests um, sort of biggest contributor to happiness.
Um, But the other is going for a run in the morning outside. And I live close enough to the beach that my run sort of ends at the beach. And also I have, so I teach a course, so pulling together my research from my career on time and happiness, I developed a course that I teach for MBA students called applying the science of happiness to life design. And seeing the impact of the course on my students where it’s about you know, how do we um, make the most of our time so that we feel happier in our days, and then more satisfied in our lives, both personally and professionally. And in the course, I have my students do I give them assignments sort of experiential assignments. And I actually cover those in the, in a Happier Hour.
And one of the most sort of insightful assignments is to identify as a way to identify activities that are sort of most worthwhile from an emotional wellbeing perspective, is I have them track their time.
So for two weeks, for every half hour, track what you’re doing, but more importantly, or also importantly, is rating on a 10 point scale, how happy and satisfied you felt doing that activity.
And so from this folks have this like wonderful, personalized data source. So they can look back and be like, okay, taking stock. How am I spending my time? And more importantly, how, what are those activities that are the most positive and satisfying, and having done this across years of teaching the course I have my students analyze their sort of happiest activities and a commonality, in addition to that sort of authentic social connection is so many of the students noted that their happiest times were when they were outside. And that’s interesting because during the pandemic I was teaching remotely. So you might be like, sure, being outside in California or in LA in January, which is when the course starts, so they’re doing this assignment, like, of course they’re gonna be happy cuz it’s like sunny and they’re living in California. But I was teaching remotely during the pandemic and I had students all over the country and even those in the cold places um, they’re they found that their happiest activities um, that uh, very common commonality among them. with being outside.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Well, which is not a surprise to me at all, but quick myth, dispelling. I would not actually characterize everybody who’s listens to this as being outdoorsy. And in fact, I don’t, oh, I feel a great amount of imposter syndrome of saying that I am outdoorsy, even though I think also flip side, most people would be like, Amy, you’re a moron. You’re the most outdoorsy person I know. But the reason that may or may not be true is because I am very intentional about going outside every day, simply because I’ve noticed that it makes me happy. Right. And so yeah, what we talk about here a lot is how being outside is a judgment free zone in terms of what you’re doing there.
So if sitting on your porch is both doable because it’s not below of zero. And that doesn’t sound that nice. Right. But is both doable and makes you happy, that is going outside. If going into your covered porch area, lots of people in the south have covered porches, right? That’s the thing. If that’s your thing, do that.
Uh, If your thing is going on a really long mountain run and you are categorically outdoorsy now do that. And so outside is outside. And I think that’s just a really important thing to remember, and I’m sure your students were, or imagine your students were not discriminating about what outside meant, right?
They didn’t have like a benchmark for, oh gosh. I have to be scaling Everest for this to be outdoorsy. No. .
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yeah. And that’s such a important and fantastic point because it’s not like actually the activities that they were writing down was like, I, was doing my outside time. What they were doing was they were writing things that they were doing outside.
And then when I had them reflect back of like, look at it, what are some commonalities across these happiest activities? They’re like, oh my gosh, And I, I happened to be outside for them. So like whether exercise showed up on people’s lists as among their most happy or least happy, it was totally determined by whether they were outside or not.
So those who their exercise was going for a run hike or going for a walk. When that was their exercise, then you saw it among their sort of happiest activities list. When their exercise was, being on the treadmill, then you actually saw it among their least happy that it very much felt like a chore yeah. Um, And I would say for me too, it’s like, um, I living in Los Angeles, it’s not it’s, it’s not prototypically a sort of very outdoorsy experience, certainly not like Alaska. But going for a walk to the coffee shop instead of, driving that half a mile in a car, I am outside during that time. And that walk is fantastic. So it is not a hike. It is a walk, but I am outside. So it makes me happy.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. We spent a lot of time talking last season in season five about nearby nature. And the idea that nature is whatever is around you be that in a city or in Alaska, sort of whatever in your mind’s eye, that means um, and that it is, in your experience, just the being outside. So if you are sitting on a city stoop, that is, and that’s what you have, and that’s great to you. Awesome. Do it. You know, If it’s walking to the coffee shop, in my book, even better, cuz there’s coffee at the end. But if there’s, if that’s uh, you know, it’s whatever it’s whatever means to you.
And it’s so interesting that your students know that I will say like I am a runner as well. I do treadmill time in the wintertime, particularly if I want to run faster than I could in the snow and cold. So like anything, kind of cooking I jump on the treadmill for that. And while I would say that watching all of the episodes of Yellowstone on my treadmill was entertaining. It certainly wasn’t my, it was not my happiest time when I typically think about running in general to be very happy, but not that so yeah.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yeah. So that’s exactly in line with what my students observed um, in doing the time tracking exercise. The research also supports that. I don’t know if you’re familiar with um, this fantastic geolocation study that researchers in the UK conducted where they basically pinged people over the course of the day and asked actually they didn’t ask where they were, they could see where they were and they could identify like based off of their geolocation technology, see where they were, what the weather was, what was surrounding them. But the thing that they pinged them for was to ask them how are you feeling right now?. And that allowed the researchers to identify um, the, these, this really interesting effect that people were significantly happier when they were outside than when they weren’t.
Um, And it was, yes, there was the effect of weather. So, people were happier when it was warmer out than when it was colder out. People were happier, depending on like the sort of urban versus natural environment. So people were happier when they were outside in the natural environment than in more of an urban environment.
But the effect of simply being outside was independent and sort of went above and beyond these sort of features of the outside. So absolutely supporting what you said that is simply being outside. Now, the bummer is what their data also showed is that we are inside 85% of the day. So it’s like, um, but you know, to the extent and this is a big point that I make in the book and I have sort of implemented in my life, is recognizing it doesn’t have to be about quantity of the time you spend in particular ways to have a really profound effect. It is sort of making those times that you’re spending really quality and paying attention and sort of getting the most out of those temporal expenditures so that they have a bigger effect on your overall sort of happiness in your days and satisfaction with your weeks and then, you know that translates into years. And then how you view your life overall.
Amy Bushatz: So, if you’re going to spend time outside every day, let’s say you are, someone’s listening to this, they wanna, this sounds like a good habit to have, or they’re struggling to make this a habit or to see what the benefit might be.
If you’re gonna implement something like that, it’s not about the time period and how much of it, or making this like all day long, every day. So much as are you present in the moment? Are you paying attention while you’re there? Are you observing, are you distracted by your phone or by problems or whatever? And are you using the allotment of however many minutes this is to the best of its ability.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yeah. So the distraction is a really, is something also worth sort of highlighting because we are so often distracted um, and sort of going back to sort of the research, a sub set of researchers, were pinging people over the course of their days. They weren’t using geolocation. They just were interested in what are people thinking or what are people doing? What are people thinking about and how do they feel, and millions of instances across these folks what they found was that we are distracted a whole lot of the time, 47% of the time when folks were pinged and they were asked what they’re thinking about, they were thinking about something other than what they were currently doing. That is their mind was wandering elsewhere. And as I mentioned, they also asked how they’re feeling and people were less happy when their minds were elsewhere, even when their minds were elsewhere on something neutral.
And this was sort of irrespective of that particular activity that they were currently doing. So that’s to say that mind wandering or being distracted, being pulled out of our present moment um, does does uh, sort of detract from our potential happiness in that moment. So going back to, like it’s not a lot of time that you need to be outside or that not, you need to that to feel the positive, emotional boost of being outside.
That it is paying attention. And one of the ways to combat this sort of constant distraction is yes. Putting your phone away. That is very clear and practical one. Another one is sort of practicing meditation and practicing mindfulness. And one I’m a terrible meditator, even though all of the research shows that it’s so wonderful, sort of com to combat anxiety.
But I have major issues sitting still. But the meditations that I do love and that I can sort of engage with are those that are outside. And I do this five senses meditation, and I do it with my kids too, cuz it it’s, it’s sort of lovely and it is being outside and you go through your five senses.
So what are five things that you see. Four things that you hear three things that you can feel, two things that you can smell. And one thing that you can taste and what that does. Like, even if you’re just walking around the block or even sitting, as you mentioned, sitting on your porch um, what that does is it really draws your attention to your current experience in your environment.
And it is wonderful in terms of quieting. Those, thoughts that are running through your mind. And so often, like the planning and the stressfulness and the uncertainty um, it quiets that and allows you to really sort of be in your environment and make the most of it. Another thing in terms of, as you were saying is like, what are ways that when you’re gonna be outside, that you can make the most of the time.
So we’ve talked about the importance of paying attention. As I also alluded to is really the role of social connection. So social connection. And and this is not connection on social media. Mm-hmm This is like true connection, you know, uh.
Amy Bushatz: Actual humans involved in person
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yes
Amy Bushatz: okay.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yes. Even if not in person, like it can be on the phone that you are talking to them, but it is not watching some acquaintance, in them what they’re eating for dinner, but.
Amy Bushatz: Fair enough.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yeah. so to the extent that your time outside, you can share it with someone then that is like fantastic. Because then you’re putting the happiness from being outside and the happiness from social connection, bundling it all together to really a wonderful opportunity for a moment of joy.
Amy Bushatz: Hey humans. If you wanna build your own outdoor habit, the Humans Outside 365 challenge is a great way to get started. You can even score some really cool and exclusive challenge swag, including a finisher decal, and metal in the process. All you need to do is visit HumansOutside.com/Challenge. You’ll also get an outdoor challenge guide written by me for you, an exclusive challenge tracker and insider info all year long. You don’t wanna be left out of this. Go to Humans Outside.com Ford slash challenge to learn more now, okay. Back to the show.
So we have keep a log of what you do so that you can rank what makes you happiest if you’re trying to find time to do something like this. In your book, you suggest a variety of strategies for getting rid of the things that make you least happy or moving through them. Such as outsourcing would be one, another would be combining terrible things. That’s not what you call them, but let’s call them that terrible tasks with something that makes you happier to sort of give your self a carrot and stick situation. And I will say that is a strategy that I have started thinking more about since I’ve read your book. Because I do, I tended to procrastinate.
Things that I really just don’t wanna do. And if I pair them with, okay, if you do this, you get a cookie, not really, but you can go on a walk or whatever um, or maybe can get a cookie um, gotta watch out for too many of those. Uh, can get out of control now that I’m thinking about it. But I, you know, I’ve started to do that a little more and it has, it has really helped, but understanding how to better move through the things that you don’t like gives you more time to do the things that you do like ,those things that give you joy such as perhaps going outside. Yes? That’s the trajectory?
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yeah. Yeah. And I would also add for that bundling. So, when I, when folks do the time tracking, they identify the activities that tend to show up as the least happy are those that are obligations. So household chores, unfortunately for many, it is many of the hours of their work day. So work as well as commuting. And so there’s the sort of question how like, and some of those things you can outsource. So some of the chores you can outsource, even some of the, sort of, if you’re an entrepreneur or have your own business, some of the pieces of your work that feel like chores, you can actually outsource and delegate elsewhere.
So that is one way to sort of minimize the amount of time, but there are still going to, we still have stuff we have to do. Right. We do have chores ultimately that we have to do, and there are gonna be sort of less fun parts of our work day that we ultimately do have to do. And so the question is, and you framed it as sort of motivating you to get through them that like afterwards you can do something fun, but I would even you can make those activities more fun by bundling them with something that you enjoy. So, like your chore of folding the laundry, it’s something, it in itself is not fun. And it is something that you, yeah, we procrastinate it’s like that pile of unfolded laundry will stay there way too long because you just don’t wanna spend the time doing it.
But if you bundle the time of folding the laundry with something fun, like listening to Humans Outside, or like listening to an audio book. So actually reading is one of the activities- so I um, in my sort of research into time poverty of this feeling of having too much to do and not enough time to do it, It has really negative effects.
It makes us less kind, it makes us less healthy. It makes us less confident and it makes us less happy. And you can sort of see why, cuz when I have people uh, complete this sentence: I don’t have time to blank. The things that people don’t say they don’t have time to do and are not making the time for sometimes it is exercise or being outside or, spending that quality time with the people we love, pursuing hobbies that enrich us, and also many people say that I don’t have time to read for pleasure. And that’s a bummer because reading is our way to learn and to sort of increase our empathy and go into other people’s experiences.
So if you bundled folding the laundry or your commute even with listening to an audio book, those 20 minutes or for the average American it’s 30 minutes each way. So a whole hour a day, if you’re listening to a book, you can get through a lot of books. So you can make the time itself a treat by bundling it with something that you enjoy.
Amy Bushatz: A lot of people tell me that they find tracking their time very tedious. um
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yeah.
Amy Bushatz: I, I tell me that and I like tracking my time and I’ve used apps for it. I’ve written it down. I, my poor team at my full-time job, I made them all track all of their time, not terribly long ago as part of a work design project.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: How long did you have them track their time for ?
Amy Bushatz: I, I had them track it for a week because I didn’t didn’t want them to quit. So .
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yeah, totally.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So my favorite entry was tracking this as the. I saw they were spending their time. That was fantastic. But lots of people find this terrible. Okay. How do you make it more palatable? What, like, what do you tell people who just revolt against this idea? Not just like, oh, this is tedious, but like, I hate this. What do you tell ’em?
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yeah. Well, interestingly, I hear that from some of my students. They’re like,
Amy Bushatz: I’m sure you do.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: This is the worst. And also I have at the end of of course I have people say what was among the activities were the most impactful. And I very vividly remember someone being like time tracking was the total worst, but it ended up being so profoundly impactful um, because it is truly informative. And once you have that information, then you can apply it.
So it is tedious. And also I would say that the people who dislike it the most are those that are like, feel like it’s they don’t like what they see as they’re writing it down. And it’s making them sort of come to terms with spending time in ways, oftentimes the thing that sort of aggravates them is when they see how much time they’re wasting and that makes them feel sort of crummy.
But with that information, you can, that the that’s information that you get to use. And I do also see that people start shifting how they’re spending their time over even like the days of tracking, cuz it makes them more thoughtful and deliberate. And then they’re starting to spend in better ways just by paying attention.
But ultimately for those who are like: I don’t care if you tell me that this will end up being worthwhile. I uh, it’s not worth my doing this immediately. And for those I say, okay, then don’t do it. Um, and what you should do though, is sit down and reflect: over the last week what are those activities, which I mentioned before um, this, what are those times in my week that I felt the most joy? What are those times that I felt the most fulfilled? And also it’s helpful to identify what are those times in the week? That I was really felt like I was very unhappy. And in there’s a lot of information in that reflection and notably this isn’t like, tell me activities you like, which is very abstract and people think um, They sort of hold generalizations of the types of activities they think they like, or they should like but the reflecting back on their own personal time can be very revealing. And so it allows folks to identify, within their work whether those, instead of like, that like all work is bad or like, you know, it’s such a pain and, it’s all an obligation, but when you’re looking back, it’s like, oh, what are the hours of your work week that are fun? Or like not perhaps not fun, but really satisfying. And that you felt really fulfilled. And that allows you to sort of hone in on what are the sort of features of your work that are most likely aligned with your personal values, your personal purpose? And, through identifying that that’s also informative to um, in going forward and crafting your future weeks of like, okay, this is a time that’s really worthwhile. And then also with the least happy times, oftentimes they’re unhappy is because they feel like they are obligations. So they’re, so we have like three basic human drives of relatedness.
So the extent to which we feel connected? Um, agency. So adjunct, like to, to what extent do we feel like we have control in our behavior and in our environment. And then competence, like, to what extent do we feel like we’re uh, accomplishing or uh, capable in our endeavors? And the least happy times tend to be activities that thwart one of those.
So activities that make us feel lonely um, like which actually happens to be oftentimes sort of scrolling through social media um, activities that are sort of counter a sense of control. So those we don’t feel like we have a choice in, and you can see like where within your work day it just feels so like, like you don’t have, a say in whether you’re, you’re sort of what you’re showing up to. And then those that um, undermine your sense of confidence.
So they feel wasteful because you’re not sort of producing and moving forward with your time. So, all to say: one, doesn’t have to track their time to get the benefits of being reflective of looking over your activities and seeing those that are worthwhile so that you can prioritize them and not just let your time and days get filled, sort of thoughtlessly. Um, and what are those things that those activities that either you wanna bundle or reframe as understanding how they contribute to your purpose or they feel less wasteful or even those that you might outsource or even those that you’re like, wait, why am I spending any time on that? I certainly don’t have to have to.
Amy Bushatz: Right. So when you, okay, so when you time track, you identify what makes you happiest, which is like the secret, secret uh, step, right? That most people don’t do when they time track. So you know, people may have time tracked I’ve time tracked, but I’ve never before had stopped to like rack and stack based on happiness. Okay.
So you time track, you identify what makes you happy. You identify what doesn’t make you happy. You go through seeing which, and like genuinely asking which of these unhappy things can I not do? And some of those might be do differently because they aren’t things you can’t not do . Or stop or intentionally, stop yourself from doing such as the endless social media scroll.
Okay, because you don’t have to do that and it doesn’t make you that happy. Why are you doing that? And I will say, like, I have ha been confronting myself on that. I have this habit of sitting on my couch as I’m sure do many people at my bedtime and endlessly scrolling reels that I don’t actually wanna watch. And if I say to myself, why you’re watching these, this is stupid myself says back. I know. So . Yeah. And I’m much happier if I went to. Go bed, Amy, stop it.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Totally. And that’s what the time tracking very clearly shows so on. I have a time tracking sheet like that. You can just like print out on my website.
Amy Bushatz: We’ll we’ll link to that.. Yep.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: And uh, walk through these steps to my, in the book, but it is really helpful for folks to very clearly see how many hours like, so when my students do this, like these are students who are working to towards their MBA. Many of them are also working full time and they are busy and they also have hopefully some social life.
Some of them have families and partners and it is very revealing when they’re looking, these are very busy people looking at like, oh my gosh, over the course of my week, calculating I spent, and I’m thinking of a particular student who is, like one of these working full times while also um, having a job.
She spent a dozen hours that week on social media. And she’s like, it’s crazy because I think it’s just gonna be a few minutes here, a few minutes there, but a, those few minutes turn into like tens of minutes and all of those mu- minutes sum up to hours, and this is someone, and then she has the rating of how happy did it make her.
And she’s like, dude, it’s like, I’m spending so much time on this that I don’t have. And it’s only like a four on this 10 point happiness scale. Meanwhile, I have, a dinner with my sister that would totally make me feel nine slash 10 on the happiness scale, but she’s like, I don’t have time to have dinner with my sister.
And so , but she does because she had spent a dozen hours that week on social media. And so this is the data. That’s like right there in front of you about you and your own time. And as you said, the important additional variable there is like how happy you feel. And it’s not this sort of like how pleasurable in the moment it’s like when people are reading they’re, you know, happiness on a scale of one to 10, about how an activity made them feel. It’s picking up on that, like satisfaction and fulfillment when sometimes it’s sort of energizing. Sometimes it’s calming, but it is, it is good these higher numbers and seeing those activities as well as how much or how little time you’re spending on these activities is very informative, such that you can be really deliberate and thoughtful as you’re crafting the time in coming weeks.
Amy Bushatz: Right. Which brings us to: the next thing is once you identify all of these things, and assuming you decide yes, you know, spending time outside is one of the things that makes me happy. And I want to do that. Now you have the opportunity to craft your time and put that in there in such a way that it does in fact happen.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Totally. Like that student. She did make time, the coming week to have dinner with her sister, she was like, oh, like, I, I must do that. And I should do that. And she was so happy to have done it and yes, it meant less couch time scrolling. But that’s absolutely the right choice.
Amy Bushatz: Mm-hmm How do you avoid? So let’s say, okay, I’m sold. I know that I can find the time, cuz we’ve talked about how to do this now. How do you avoid backsliding on that? So you’ve got all this stuff. You’ve nailed it. Now you’re going outside every day for a week. Okay. Two weeks. Three weeks comes around and all of a sudden the endless scroll has started to take up incrementally more of your time. Ok. Because, I mean, this is human nature, right? We’ve all, We’ve all been there. How do you protect the things that give you joy in your schedule from slipping away, despite those best intentions?
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yeah. Well, one thing that happens is that when we start doing things regularly those things that happen every day, we assume that they will continue to happen every day.
And we are subject to something called hedonic adaptation that is after sort of repeated exposure to a stimuli. So doing something over and over again um we it has less of an effect on how we feel because we adapt. Now, this is really good that we are so adaptive when bad stuff happens and our circumstances are bad because it allows us to be resilient and sort of become more tolerant.
But it’s bad because we also adapt to pleasures and the joys in our life. And in particular, those sort of simple joys. So, um, You know, if you think to, I, I can sort of use my example. So I now I live in Santa Monica, close to that happy place that I mentioned at the beginning next, you know, close to the beach. But for years, I was living back on the east coast um, in Philly and being a Southern Californian, and I really wanted to get back here. Now going for a walk every day, you know, outside in beautiful Santa Monica. Um, initially, it’s like, I’m like, you know, I feel like like the, as joyful as could possibly be, cuz I’m like, oh my God, this is so amazing.
I’m, you notice it because it’s new, you haven’t started adapting to it. But over time you stop noticing it so much. So how do you recognize or sort of continue to pay attention and notice. Um, and there are some, there are different strategies that I share um, in Happier Hour. One is in, in pulling in variety.
So actually, as you vary the sort of experience, then it keeps you paying attention and keeps you engaged. It’s actually taking a break. So interestingly the notion of like distance makes the heart go grow fonder. That is like, it, it seems weird that something that you enjoy you should actually stop doing for a little bit.
But the research, because it sort of counters hedonic adaptation. Like once you start again, you’re like, oh my God, this is as amazing. And you continue to pay attention. The thing that I think the most powerful and I talk, or I explore a lot in my research and talk a lot in the book is actually counting how many times you have left or recognizing that even though you think it’s gonna continue happening every day, that it won’t, makes you really savor that time.
So it was an example, like my son. Um, He uh, when we first moved out here, I walked him. Uh, I walked him to his preschool that was on UCLA’s campus. And it, again, it’s like, being back in Southern California, glorious and wonderful and beautiful. But. I, there was this morning and I remember it really vividly because it was so, um, sort of astonishing what came out of my mouth.
So like we’re walking and it is gorgeous outside and he is skipping along. And I am, we talked about the being distracted. I was in my head, charging ahead, cuz I was thinking about the meetings that were sort of waiting for me that day. And all that I had to do so I was charging. And he stops and he is like, mom, wait, like, look.
And I’m like, you know, not even looking, I’m like, hurry up. We have to go. And he’s like, no, mom, look. And I turn around and I see he is, his nose is in this like flower bed and he’s smelling the roses. And I was like, I heard these words come outta my mouth. Like kid you not. I was like, We don’t have time to stop and smell the roses.
And I was like, oh my God, when I heard those words come outta mouth, I was like, I cannot believe. And I like, look around. I’m like, did anyone hear? We say that that’s so terrible. And I’m like a happiness and time researcher. Like I of all people should not be yelling at my son that we don’t have time to stop and smell the roses.
But if I had calculated, so if I had counted how many times do I have left to walk with my son to school? Um, and I would’ve realized that morning I had only 20% of our times left walking to school on campus. Because his preschool was on campus, but his elementary school is not and now it’s like driving him and so and a lot of these things, we assume that they will continue to be available to us cause we’ve been doing them every day, but they won’t necessarily be available to us. And when we actually recognize just how limited those times are in the future, what it does is it pushes us. It reminds us to prioritize and make the time, but I think even more so it really draws our attention into that time to really savor those times such that when we’re spending them, they we’re sort of making the most of those minutes or hours that we’re spending.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. It, for something like an outdoor habit, I imagine you could look at that in terms of seasons or in terms of months. Um, you know, here in Alaska, the sun, it’s very easy to do that with summer, or even with micro portions of winter too, because summer in particular is so great, but so short. So yeah.
So, you know, it’s, you really do feel like you have a fire lit under you for how long you’re gonna have this much sunshine, especially since you, when you listen to NPR while you’re driving, they say things like they give you the today’s weather is whatever. The sun will rise at X. The sun will set it, whatever, and that is a loss or gain depending on the time of year of five minutes, 23 seconds of daylight.
What? So , this is not the energy we need NPR. No, but that, but it really does remind you that these things are constantly changing and constantly fleeting. And in other parts of the U.S., that’s true with months, that’s true with seasons. That’s true looking at the tree in your yard. How long do I have left seeing this tree look this way with the leaves just so? Well, it’s probably not that long because that’s not how trees work, you know, and so. Yeah. And so it’s looking for those cues and understanding a balance between, oh my God, this is like, the world is coming to an end. This moment will be no more and being very dramatic about it, which I am tempted to feel because today we are losing five minutes, 23 seconds of daylight. What! Um, being very dramatic about it. On the flip side, being complacent. And you wanna have this balance where it’s inspirational, but not terrifying.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Totally. It’s about, it’s about savoring. So, like that calculation, particularly when it’s like um experiences that you share with loved ones. It’s not well , you know, my students are like, I thought this was meant to be a happiness class and you’re making me cry um, as they do those calculations of times left. Um, But what it is it’s, it’s the intent is not to actually think that the, about the end. That it will not be anymore. The intent is to really focus on and make the most of the time that you do have left and the time that you’re spending.
And so it is sort of increasing the quality of that time.
Amy Bushatz: Mm-hmm, , mm-hmm as a final thing. Uh, and speaking of time, we were coming to the end of ours. Can you walk us out with just a few practical steps? I mean, maybe even just a recap of kind of what we’ve talked about here for getting started to make more time to be happy if that includes going outside, great. But just in general as well. .
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Yeah. And I think the takeaway which we’ve covered is it actually doesn’t have to be, it’s not about the amount of time you spend it’s about being really thoughtful in the time that you spend. So prioritizing for those activities that you have reflected or have tracked and identified as really being worthwhile as bringing you joy, making the time for those. And when you’re spending that time to really be paying attention, to removing those distractions so that you get as much happiness as possible from so that’s the takeaway that’s the takeaway
Amy Bushatz: Cassie, thank you so much for joining us on Humans Outside for sharing these tips and your research.
People can find your book, which is out now wherever they get their books. Hopefully, maybe just a hint somewhere, local bookshop. Good idea. Um, And um, and give that a read and visit your website for the time tracking sheet and all sorts of other resources. Thank you so much for joining us.
Dr. Cassie Holmes: Thank you so much for having me. It was fun.
Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, take a second to leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts that makes it easier for others to find the podcast too. Your positive review makes a huge difference. Now go get outside until next time.
We’ll see you out there.