The term leisure can be a very difficult one to define. What elements of an activity make it leisure? What elements of an activity make it work? There
are many theories that try to explain exactly what one considers to be leisure and not an obligation or a chore. When studying leisure it soon becomes evident that each individual has their own, unique definition of leisure (Hopp). Understanding how free-time is spent will help in understanding that leisure is a personal phenomenon. Looking at trends and patterns of leisure in relation to essential activities in our daily lives is the first step in discovering what constitutes our leisure. Distinguishing what is considered leisure and what is considered essential activity can be difficult. Looking at moods, what/who motivates certain leisure choices and how they change at different times of year or with a different work schedule helps distinguish between leisure and obligations and come to a definition of leisure for the individual.
After uncovering a personal definition of leisure the next step is finding out the role leisure plays in our lives. This starts through determining how life altering events have affected our current leisure behaviour. The benefits we hope to gain from our leisure and our work become evident when we think about how we would fill the time if they were suddenly taken away. Family traditions are a good example of a way to find the routes of our feelings toward leisure (Hopp). Thinking about why we do not pursue leisure activities we have always wanted to reveals the personal attitudes, relationships and external factors that shape our leisure choices
. Understanding leisure in your community starts by uncovering all leisure opportunities in a particular area. Looking closely at these leisure opportunities reveals an endless list of possible leisure spending whether directly from a leisure provider or indirectly facilitated (Hopp). Thinking about how having a disability, limited financial resources or being in a new place with a different language and climate would limit leisure opportunities shows the importance of providing leisure opportunities for people with such limitations.
Part 1: Understanding/Recognizing how Free Time is spent
This portion of the report is largely based on data I collected in a time diary (see appended materials). This diary contains all of my activity in half hour intervals over three days. In addition to a description of my activity, I recorded my mood during the time period and whether or not I considered it to be leisure. In order to better understand my data, a brief description of my schedule and lifestyle is required. I am 19 years old. I moved from Toronto to Montreal three years ago to come to Concordia. I live downtown a short distance from the Concordia campus with my girlfriend of two years. I have two classes, one takes place on Wednesday nights and the other is online. I spend two or three days a week in Ottawa working in residential construction. In those two days I spend around twenty hours at work. I started my time diary the day after my second day of work on my way back to Montreal.
Trends and Patterns
My time diary revealed that over three days (72 hours) I spent a total fifty five hours on essential activities. These activities include eating, showering, cleaning, studying and sleeping. An average of 18.3 hours per day was comprised of these essential activities. The remaining seventeen hours I considered leisure. An average of 5.6 hours per day was spent on leisure activities including watching television, surfing the internet, spending time with my girlfriend and socializing with friends. I decided to subtract sleep from my essential activities to look at my activity while I was awake. This yielded a total of 28 hours spent on essential activities. An average of 63% of my awake hours were spent in leisure down from 31% with sleep included. The time I spent on leisure was spontaneous and at different times of the day. Most of my time is open and it is up to me to use it wisely. Since I did not have many plans, I was free to fulfill my obligations when I pleased and my sporadic time diary shows it. Review ‘Time Diary’ and ‘Time Diary Analysis’ for more detail.
Work and Leisure Occurring Simultaneously
There are certain instances when essential activities contain elements of leisure and leisure contains elements of work. In my case these were usually surrounding cooking and eating. Both of these things are essential for human beings but for me they are usually in a social setting. Eating is something most people thoroughly enjoy but may not consider it to be leisure. I feel the same way but when I eat with my girlfriend and/or friends when they come over I find myself very relaxed and enjoy the food and conversation. In this case, an essential activity was very enjoyable so I considered it leisure. An example of a time when I did not consider eating to be leisure was when I ate breakfast in the car on the way to the bus station. I was in a rush, uncomfortable and was not engaged in any conversation.
Cooking is not for everyone but since I have moved away from home it is something I do every day and have come to love it. It is essential that I cook for myself but it also relaxes me and gives me pleasure so I considered most of the time I spent in the kitchen to be leisure. I would not consider all cooking to be leisure, for example pounding down raw chicken was gross and uncomfortable so I did not consider it leisure.
Motivation for Leisure
My leisure was mainly home-based, core activities. All of my leisure activities were passive and did not cost a lot of money. During the three days I recorded, my leisure choices were unconditional, recuperative, role-determined and relational. A lot of my leisure choices revolve around studying. Things such as watching television and surfing the internet are something I do on a study break. These would be considered recuperative leisure activities because they allowed me to unwind relax before I started studying again (Kelly). My girlfriend is most often home with me so spending with her is a given. I do a lot of things we both enjoy such as watching movies and television and having friends over. Sometimes the television show or movie isn’t the one I would choose but I still enjoy myself and I know I will get to choose the next time around.
These leisure choices are role-determined in that as a boyfriend I need to be fair in the decision of what activities we do together (Kelly). A good friend of mine was in town and would come by unannounced so another portion of my leisure choices was based on hosting him. These leisure choices were extrinsically motivated because although I enjoyed myself, it may not have been the time slot or activity I would have chosen for leisure at that time. These choices were relational in that I made my choice because he is a good friend and I wanted to be a good host (Kelly). Having friends over for dinner on the second night was freely chosen for my personal enjoyment making it an unconditional leisure activity (Kelly). ‘Relaxed’ was the mood I recorded in my time diary for all of the time I considered leisure.
Influence on Leisure
Although the three days I recorded in my time diary were somewhat typical, if I had chosen three different days the results could have been much different. I spend the fall and winter semesters in Montreal going to school. During the summer I live at my parents house and work as much as possible (around 50 hours a week) to save up for the school year. This creates a time constraint. When I am at home I spend most of my weekends with my Dad who loves to fish. He has a boat and we would spend our weekends on the water. If my data had been collected during the summer, my leisure pattern would be much more rigid due to my busy work schedule.
My activities would be different as well because I would be spending free time with my Dad instead of my girlfriend. While I am in Montreal, socializing is my leisure activity and money is my main constraint. Since I am working this school year I have been comfortable but due to illness last week I missed work and therefore money is tight this week. My girlfriend and I usually like to eat out and go out to bars, nightclubs and concerts with our friends. Since I did not have as much money as usual we decided to have our friends over and cook instead. If my data had been collected when I had more spending money, my leisure activities would have likely been different.
Defining Leisure – Response Theory (MacNeil)
Of the leisure definitions and theories I have come across, Rich MacNeil’s ‘Response Theory’ makes the most sense to me. His definition of leisure is as follows. “A cognitive and emotional response to a state of involvement which flows from perceived feelings of personal choice, well-being, and self-satisfaction. It is characterized by feelings of mastery, achievement, commitment, contentment, success, personal worth and pleasure.” In other words he says, “It is not the activity that makes it leisure, but rather the response to the activity that determines it.” I like this theory because it can apply to any activity showing that what one may consider a chore maybe enjoyed by another who considers it leisure. In my case, cooking is an example in that some (including my Mother) consider cooking an essential activity while I consider it leisure. In the same way I find cooking therapeutic my Mother feels about cleaning whereas I would never consider cleaning to be leisure.
Part 2: The Role of Leisure in Our Lives
An individual’s leisure repertoire is all of the leisure activities he/she participates in at a point in time (Hopp). It constantly changes due to internal and external factors. Life altering events such as moving away from home and entering a serious relationship can significantly alter leisure behaviour. Taking away someone’s main obligation or main leisure activity reveals what benefits of their activities are important to them and what they hope to gain from their choices. Family traditions play a role in determining where we learned what we look for in leisure (Hopp). Personal attitudes, relationships and external variables such as money also dictate what people choose to do in their free-time.
Moving Away From Home and Entering a Serious Relationship
Three years ago I moved from my parent’s house in a suburb of Toronto to downtown Montreal to attend Concordia University. This move caused a change in my typical leisure patterns. When I was living with my parents my leisure repertoire included more sporting activities. In the summer my friends and I frequently rode bicycles and played basketball and my Dad would take us fishing. In the winter I played hockey and snowboarded often. Now I am in an urban setting with a different social circle, most of my balance activities consist of socializing, eating out and going to bars, nightclubs and attending concerts. Money has become my largest constraint because I am on my own and have to pay for essential items such as food, books and household goods. I spend much more time at home and core activities such as watching television and movies make up most of my free time.
I have been in a relationship with my girlfriend for two years. We now live together in a one bedroom apartment downtown Montreal. Being in a serious relationship has also significantly affected my leisure behaviour. A good portion of my free time is spent with her instead of by myself or with other friends. My core activities are almost always spent with her since we live together. My balance activities have changed in that they are based around doing things together such as eating out and going to the movies. Since I have met her I have begun to enjoy different types of music and begun to attend different concerts and bars. Since we have different groups of friends I see some people less and I see others more.
I would consider fishing to be one of my favourite pass times. Since I was a young boy my Dad has brought me and my younger brother fishing. It started out as day trips where we would fish from shore at local lakes or stocked ponds. Over the years it progressed to weekend trips to more remote locations. Now we fish from a nineteen foot boat built purely for fishing and go on week long trips to outpost camps only accessible by float plane. My little brother and I were almost always the only children at these camps. It is not for everyone and I feel it is a unique pass-time because of the extremes we have gone to. It is now an annual tradition that we gather up a group of guys and go on a fishing excursion. These trips involve long drives, early mornings and often a lack of the comforts of home.
Conversely, they have shown me some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and have allowed me to escape reality and forget about any problems or stress. As my brother and I have grown up we have been given more responsibilities on these trips such as cooking, cleaning fish, cleaning dishes and driving the boats. Although some of the aspects of these trips are not leisure, the experience as a whole is very relaxing and definitely leisure. Some of my best memories have been on these trips and the time I spent with my Dad and brother on them has helped us develop a great relationship with each other. I feel that these trips have caused me to look for relaxation and stress relief in my leisure.
My Life without School
Attending Concordia University and achieving my Bachelor of Commerce degree is my main focus at this point in my life. If one day I could not continue with my schooling I would feel quite lost. Without school I imagine my time would be replaced with a search for direction in life. I would need to find a new goal as concrete as achieving a University degree. I would look for a career that I could build on and have the opportunity to better myself. I may look to improving my skills for the work place such as taking a course on Excel. Perhaps I would try to learn a second language and see new parts of the world. Whatever it may be that replaces the time I spend working on my degree, it would have to be something long-term, meaningful and rewarding.
My Life without Socializing with Friends
Aside from my core activities, my main leisure choices revolve around socializing with friends. If one day all of my friends moved away I would be left with not only a time gap to fill but also a physiological void. Being with friends allows me to have a good quality of life. The time I spend with friends acts as stress relief and heightens my emotional well-being. Conversation with them provides me with awareness of current events, music and various other topics. Without my friends I would spend time on something that provides me with the same necessities they do (stress relief, awareness and emotional well-being). This might be joining a sports team or a school club. Whatever it may be it would be to fulfill the benefits I gain from socializing with my friends.
A leisure constraint is something that dictates why somebody would stop or not start any particular activity (Hopp). The three types of constraints are intrapersonal (personal attitude), interpersonal (social), or structural (external variable). Two things I have always wanted to do for leisure are overseas travel and surfing. Below is a chart containing the constraints that have kept me from pursuing these activities.