But now, there’s a case for choosing a bit of play over work: Four new studies published in Psychological Science say heading out for a leisurely lunchtime picnic date or taking a quick bike ride around the park before your next meeting might actually be a good idea.
“We may be over-worrying and over-working for future rewards that could be just as pleasurable in the present.”
The goal of the research was to find out whether enjoying leisure time before responsibilities were completed lessened the fun. And it turns out, the looming presence of a deadline, work, or other commitment didn’t make it any less happiness-inducing.
Through a series of experiments—including ones in which working adults had to complete strenuous mental tasks and play fun iPad games, and one where stressed-out students got to visit a spa either before or after taking their midterm exams—the researchers found that the order of work and play didn’t seem to matter.
“Our findings suggest we may be over-worrying and over-working for future rewards that could be just as pleasurable in the present,” study author Ed O’Brien shares in Harvard Business Review. “American workers work longer hours and take fewer vacations than anyone in the industrialized world. Most of them are unhappy with work-life balance, leave paid vacation days on the table, and wish they took more time for fun.” (It’s no surprise burnout by 30 is becoming increasingly common.)
So the next time you’re feeling guilty for going in on that matcha babka before eating your grain bowl, or for getting that run in before you hunker down to study for finals, remember that science is giving you the go-ahead to #treatyoself.
If you’re looking for ways to add some fun to your workout, try this partner HIIT workout or check out these ways to add some outdoor activities to your barbecue.