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Happier Hour – a book the most time poor need to read

A woman holds a book called Happier Hour by Cassie Holmes. She looks knowingly at the book.

Do you struggle to find time to do things that make your heart sing, or at least allow yourself to take a slow long exhale?

That’s how I felt for years, particularly as a working (for many years, single) mum who volunteered in support of kids’ school and sport, and at extended different times, was also an unpaid carer.  It was only in the name of ‘work research’ that I even gave myself time to attend my first laughter yoga session: oh what a difference that made!

In a society that seems to value busyness, many of us are time poor, feeling there’s too little time available to do all that we need, let alone want, to do.

And that’s not good for our sense of life satisfaction.

We all have just 24 hours in our day. It’s how we use those 86,400 seconds – and how we view that use – that can make a difference.

I’ve just spent time reading Happier Hour by UCLA social psychology professor Cassie Holmes. Oh, I wish it had been available years ago. Alas, Dr Holmes would have been a tweenager back then. 

I heartily recommend investing your time in reading Happier Hour – particularly if you are telling yourself ‘I don’t have time to read anything’. It’s an easy read, conversational in style, and while evidence-based, it’s extremely practical. It’s available as an audiobook too so theoretically you could ‘bundle’ or multi-task and absorb her message while doing something else!

Holmes and fellow researchers crunched some significant numbers from the American Time Use Survey.  

Holmes and Co found we need at least 2 hours in the day for discretionary activities to feel ‘happy’. That’s after sleep and the obligatory tasks such as work, commuting, household chores, medical appointments and errands. (As an aside, I searched high and low for relevant Australian data and could only find reference to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014 General Social Survey  indicating then that 45% of women and 36% of men always or often felt rushed and pressed for time.)

 Imagine, 2 hours – at least – to do as we choose. Your choice, no judgement: hanging out with family or friends, working out at the gym, chilling on the sofa with the remote control, having a massage…

At this point I hear you saying one of 2 things: 

  • “I  don’t have 2 minutes, let alone 2 hours’… for you, please read the book.

  • “I have hours and hours to do what I want. Retirement is one big unplanned day after another and I’m not happy!”  You need to read this book too. Without being a spoiler. Holmes’ research definitely found there is such a thing as having too much time.

Holmes describes ‘time crafting’ our days , creating something akin to a mosaic that allows us to deal with the stuff that has to be done but gives us time to do what we value and want to do.

Like getting along to laughter yoga sessions – my version of a happier hour!

3 happier hour time crafting tips

  1. Bundle an activity you want to do with something you have to do

I like to walk and talk – catch up with a friend and walk at the same time.

 A laughter yoga regular at my North Lakes club, Joyce, commutes more than 60 minutes daily to her full-time job. She now commutes via public transport instead of a car (there’s little difference in commute time in peak hour) and uses that time productively: she responds to personal emails, gets up-to-date with social media and listens to a podcast or reads a book.

2. Allow thinking time

On her Monday morning runs, Holmes thinks about decisions she needs to make for work or family life that week. Others do it walking their dog. Some go into a room, close the door and turn the phone off. My friend Katy pops a headband with bunny ears on to indicate to her family that she’s in ‘thinking’ mode: do not disturb.

However you do it, give yourself time to think, rather than lurch.

You’ll be happier for it.

3. Establish a tradition of regularly getting together if that’s important

Life circumstances meant my family didn’t have holiday traditions so it’s little wonder I’ve often been alone on Christmas Day (if not volunteering), yet research shows those who do have traditions know what to expect, know to plan and actually look forward to time together again. It could be a monthly date night with an adult child. It doesn’t have to be a ‘holiday’. You make getting together with someone special, special. Perhaps laughter club on the first and third Thursdays of the  month at North Lakes Library is part of ritual making for some regulars – their happier hour, because they leave feeling happier, relaxed, and connected.

There’s so much more to Happier Hour  How to Beat Distraction, Expand your Time and Focus on What Matters Most by Cassie Holmes PhD. It’s a read that could gift you time and greater life satisfaction. Worth a read.


Former health journalist turned laughter wellbeing practitioner HeatherJoy Campbell is a professional laughter yoga teacher/trainer in Queensland who juggles paid and volunteer work and holds dear her daily swims in Moreton Bay.