Too much free time? That could affect your happiness

Despite the thrill that comes with finding a gorgeous new purse or a pair of heeled boots, we’ve talked before about how shopping and money often don’t lead to happiness — they’re shorter-term thrills and you’re better off heading to see 50/50 with your girlfriend, or taking your sister out for sushi.

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Despite the thrill that comes with finding a gorgeous new purse or a pair of heeled boots, we’ve talked before about how shopping and money often don’t lead to happiness — they’re shorter-term thrills and you’re better off heading to see 50/50 with your girlfriend, or taking your sister out for sushi. Spending quality time with others you care about and who love you is a no-brainer way of raising your own level of happiness.

But as it turns out, time also plays a role in creating that happiness equation. So discovered Chris Manolis and James A. Roberts, researchers with the University of Cincinnati and Baylor University in Texas, in a study they conducted on adolescents about spare time they believe they had, and how much or little of it affects consumer behaviors such as compulsive buying and shopping. Manolis found some interesting information emerged about how much spare time we have and our happiness levels.

Q: How was the perception of free time linked to lower levels of happiness?

A: Perceptions of more free time are associated with more happiness. In our study, we wanted to know if perceptions of free time negatively influence the effects of both materialism and compulsive buying on happiness. We find that these perceptions do interact with materialistic and compulsive buying tendencies — if someone thinks he or she has enough time but not too much, the negative effects of materialism and compulsive buying are in fact curtailed.

Q: So how did materialism and impulsive buying affect teen’s happiness and why?

A: We’ve known for a long time that both materialism and compulsive buying decrease one’s happiness in both adults and teens, for a whole host of reasons. They focus on accumulating things at the expense of  more important and nurturing activities such as relationships. Or not controlling one’s behavior when shopping leads to money problems such as debt. And then there’s the general imbalance in one’s life you have just like any other type of behavior that people can’t control, like drinking or gambling.

Q: Can these findings be applied to adults as well or simply teens, and why?

A: Although these effects have only been tested with teens, I would guess that adults would respond or act the same way, given that adults and teens usually witness similar effects with respect to both materialism and compulsive buying.

Q: What is the take-away message our readers could apply to their own lives?

A: If one has materialistic or compulsive buying tendencies, perceptions of free time can potentially affect these tendencies. The most insightful finding is that if you have a moderate amount of free time in your life, this will lessen the negative effects of materialistic or compulsive buying tendencies.

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