Why are you reading this indoors?
Flickr user MichiganMoves
(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY How people spend their time often has little to do with how they spend their money.
I was recently reminded of this when I saw a few figures (via the Wall Street Journal) from a new study of dual-income middle class families. Researchers at UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families followed 32 households, recording how and where these people spent their time. Among the most startling findings? Adults spent less than 15 minutes in their backyards each week (Kids spent less than 40 minutes -- another horrible figure, but one for a different post.)
What makes this figure so fascinating is that having enough land for a yard adds a chunk of change to the cost of the house. Beyond that, many of these families had pools, hot tubs, outdoor furniture, and other items that aren't exactly cheap. Yet the adults who probably paid for these things spent about 2 minutes per day enjoying them. That comes out to less than 13 hours per year.
One can imagine many reasons why adults seem to spend so little time in their backyards. Perhaps they have long commutes that eat up time they could spend relaxing. But one reason people have long commutes is that they buy houses far enough out that they can have yards.
Even so, a long commute would leave ample time on weekends for enjoying a yard -- and the people in the study clearly weren't doing that, either. I suspect the real reason for the low number is that much of the time that could be spent outside is spent instead in front of electronic gadgetry: televisions, computers, video game consoles. These are often the easiest things to do, and so when we don't think about how we want to spend our time, this is what we do. Even people who live in southern California, where you can comfortably be outside pretty much year round.
The saddest part of that 15-minute figure is that being outside tends to put people in better moods. The solution? Be less mindless. If you're reading this on your laptop or smartphone at home, why not take your device outside right now? Rather than eat breakfast in front of the television, eat breakfast outside. Get the kids out chasing fireflies rather than watching TV at night. If you pick up the phone, and it's cordless, wander outside while talking. All of these ideas will quickly have you outside enjoying your yard more than 15 minutes per week. If the only time you see your yard is when you're mowing it, you're missing a lot of potential happiness in your life -- at a pretty high cost.
How often do you go outside while you're at home?Photo courtesy of Flickr user MichiganMoves
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