College students blow bubbles as an expression of spontaneous play in their Leisure Lifestyle development course.

Have you ever tried to define the word “leisure?” Does it manifest as a recreational activity, a wonderful cruise, or a spiritual experience in communing with nature? If you answered yes to any and all, you would be correct. The definition of leisure is as varied as there are people on planet Earth.

The textbook definitions of leisure include five concepts or dimensions:

  • Leisure as being free from any sense of obligation, like work or school
  • Leisure as time free from work (Discretionary Time)
  • Leisure as recreational activity
  • Leisure as freedom to engage in personally meaningful experiences
  • And, leisure as a state of mind, as perceived by Aristotle and his fellow Ancient Greeks. Of course, the rest of his upper-class male citizens had the time to sit around and contemplate answers to important questions and ponder their existence, while their women and slaves carried out the daily work.

Regardless of how the theories came to be, the “leisure as a state-of-mind theory” has great value in the 21st century. This concept values individual perspective and “provides an effective way to move past our tendency to view leisure and work as opposites. If a person enjoys meaningful work, her work becomes leisure for her because of her state of mind.” (Schwab, A Career with Meaning: Recreation, Parks, Sport Management, Hospitality and Tourism).

In other words, leisure is a special attitude, a state-of-mind, and is meaningful only to the person’s perspective.

In the Friday morning class I teach, “Leisure Lifestyle Development,” I introduce these concepts to university students. In one class we talked about play and motivation. I showed a slide of adults blowing bubbles as an example of spontaneous play. Somehow, my students got the idea we were going to go outside at some point and blow bubbles.

The photo above wonderfully illustrates the students’ ability to enjoy a spontaneous leisure moment. The next week, I had purchased the miniature bubbles and all 50 of my students met on the bridge near our classroom and blew bubbles for over 20 minutes. I wish I had better photos to share, but I believe this one does the trick of demonstrating State of Mind.


48 thoughts on “Leisure is a State of Mind

  1. Your classes sound like they would be fun 🙂 Thanks Terri for pointing me toward this post after you read my write on happiness last week. I finally got over here! Leisure can be amazing, with bubbles and all!

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    1. Yes! And never feel guilty for taking leisure time. The Puritan Work ethic plus the baby boomer workaholism tendency is a huge constraint to leisure! We can blame those for our feelings 🙂


  2. So very cool. We do have that tendency to separate leisure and work, but we certainly can enjoy leisure during paid work. You encapsulated this so incredible well Terri.

    Thanks so much for sharing and have a great week. 🙂


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  3. I love this photo Terri. I think it is ‘the better’ photo you wished you’d had. And I think you could run with the idea of ‘Leisure Is A State Of Mind’. Even the simple pleasure of a 5 minute leisure activity can be incredibly rejuvenating and relaxing…kind of like an active meditation

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