The Challenge: Everyone always complains about how ‘busy’ they are!
The Science: We’re actually happier when we have a lot going on, but using the word ‘busy’ may make us less connected and happy.
The Solution: Cut ‘busy’ from your vocabulary and you may already feel less stressed!
A study in the Journal of Psychological Science shows that we’re much happier when there’s a lot going on in our lives. If keeping active and “busy” is positive for our health, why do we often feel overwhelmed or exhausted by our list of responsibilities?
It may not be our “to-do list” that is the source of our unhappiness. Instead, our choice of words can have a negative effect on our experience. A study on the psychological aspects of language use tells us that our words have more power than we may think.
Here are 6 reasons why we would all be happier if we stopped using ‘busy’ to describe ourselves and our lives.
It keeps you from being present.
Being busy implies that you are preoccupied. Right when the word “busy” comes out of your mouth, life becomes more hectic. Instead of enjoying the present moment and your surroundings, the only thing you are doing is running through your to-do list in your head. For more information on the benefits of being present, check out this study that uses mindfulness to increase well-being.
It disconnects you.
“I’m too busy.” Even saying the word makes me feel stressed and disconnected. Saying you’re too busy is like telling the other person they have too much time. It can be demeaning and come off self-centered, even if you are ‘busy’ saving the world. Take a look at this infographic on how important social connection is to our health and happiness.
It is a choice.
When I complain about how busy I am, it is as if someone put all these things on my plate without my approval. When, in fact, I make my life the way it is. I chose to be in school. I chose to work 3 jobs. I chose to pack my weeks with plans and travel whenever possible. The question is: Is it all worth it? If it is, be grateful and proud of everything you do. If it’s not, make a change.
It is a cover-up.
If someone asks you to do something and you either don’t want to or have other plans, say it. “It’d be great to see you, but I think my body needs a good night’s sleep.” “Sorry I made other plans; maybe we can reschedule.” “I’d love to, but I really should study tonight. I’m trying to raise my grades.” Tell it how it is so your loved ones don’t constantly hear that you are “too busy” for them.
Busy is not a feeling.
Why is ‘busy’ used as a response to “how are you?” What are your emotions associated with being busy? It’s O.K. to be honest. You may feel stressed out or anxious. At least those are feelings that the other person can understand and connect with. This is also a useful tool to gain awareness of how being ‘busy’ is making you feel.
It can easily be reframed.
Summing up your life as “busy” doesn’t acknowledge all the good things you are doing. Science suggests that there is a strong connection between the well-being and happiness of people who are emotionally and behaviorally compassionate. The good reasons why we fill our lives don’t shine through when we cover them with a simplistic, negative word such as “busy.” If you really feel like you need to sum your life up in one word, try using the words active, eventful, involved, or lively. These words have a more positive connotation and many times it’s what you mean anyway.
Before trying to figure out what responsibility to cut out of your life, try removing this one word from your daily conversations and life may already start to seem a little less hectic.
“Quite simply, what you say is the single biggest factor that determines your happiness.” – Irwin Katsof