Being busy is taken as a given these days, even when you feel like you're getting nothing done. We talk a lot about the critical importance of slowing down, but it's worth remembering that there are upsides to staying engaged. One of them is about mindset, and a new study suggests it has far-reaching implications for your health.
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Work just published in the Journal of Consumer Research looks into why we benefit from keeping busy, which is a more complicated question than it seems on the surface. Being busy has certain self-esteem boosters: In very simple terms, when you're busy, you feel important, and when you feel important, you hold yourself to a higher standard. Coauthor Amitava Chattopadhyay says in a press release that being busy "[tips] the balance in favor of the more virtuous choice."
Some of that comes down to delayed gratification. When we feel like we're in control of our behavior, we pat ourselves on the back for taking the long view. That means going to the gym rather than going for a drink, or setting up a savings account rather than splurging on new shoes.
This all fits in with previous research about how a little workplace anxiety can help you at your job. However, this shouldn't convince anyone to do away with their slow and free time altogether. We need vacations and down moments and unscheduled days to unwind and recover. Being busy shouldn't be a lifestyle, but it can be a way to help you set your focus and go.