Producing happiness

Photo of items on a tray including glasses, coffee mug, and incense with the text "producing happiness"

Here’s how I spent my morning today: I woke up and ate breakfast with my partner while we talked about whatever sleepy, unfocused thoughts were on our minds. We listened to a short news podcast and discussed somewhat sharper thoughts about the state of the world. My partner went off to work, and I went to the couch to sip my coffee and listen to an audiobook while I allowed myself to fully wake up. I noticed the neighbor’s friendly cat on our front porch, so I went outside for a bit to snuggle and take in the unseasonably warm fall air.

I didn’t touch any work or email that whole time, but it was definitely a productive morning.

What did I produce? Happiness, mental focus, calm, and lower blood pressure.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of reclaiming productivity since I wrote that first blog post on the topic. Up until recently, I’ve wanted to reject the concept of productivity altogether, completely removing it from my vocabulary, but I’m becoming more and more attached to the idea of reclaiming it.

Productivity just means we’re producing something, so why not talk about it in the context of producing something other than money? We can be producing happiness, wellbeing, joy, clarity. All these things are just as valid as producing money.

This change in mindset diffuses the anxiety of feeling the need to be productive all the time. Viewing more things as productive creates an instant productivity boost. We can worry less about whether we’re using our time effectively and instead focus on enjoying that time.

For me, this shift is especially necessary on the weekends. With more unstructured time on my hands, I would often feel like I wasn’t using it as effectively as I should. But when I started seeing rest and relaxation as productive time, I felt way less stressed out.

If I was tired, I could take a nap with no guilt because it was productive to rest and restore my energy. If I wanted to spend some quality time with my partner, playing a video game was productive because it gave us unstructured time to be with each other, talk, and have fun.

I want to be clear; this reframing is not meant to encourage our obsession with productivity. You do not have to rationalize every action as productive in order to feel okay with spending your time how you want. I’m simply offering a different—and hopefully healthier—perspective on the concept of productivity.

Later on today, I plan to make a somewhat elaborate dinner, take a long walk around the neighborhood, and watch some TV with my partner. An all-around productive day of creating health, happiness, and wellbeing.

Oh and, yeah, I’ll work for a bit too.

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