Thursday, June 16, 2011

Leisure and Human Development

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Personal Philosophy of Leisure

Matt Clatworthy

Everyday people across the world deal with important decisions regarding their lives. Decisions involving family, friends, work, and finance all contribute to our livelihood and wellness. One exceedingly important choice in life, which is often overlooked or taken for granted, is what we decide to do as leisure. Leisure is anything done in one’s free time for fun, that lacks compulsion and is absent from any negative acts against society. Leisure is a state of mind, an attitude, and an activity that brings pleasure. It is an experience felt when one does something in that in the past had been useful for survival. Leisure is literature and is apparent in all forms of literature. Leisure is in magazine articles, greeting cards, novels, and newspapers. Literature allows the reader to fantasize, the writer to express feelings, and the mind of both to escape reality for a moment in time. Over 1.04 billion books are sold each year, proof that literature is a leisure activity of significance. Leisure is art and can be seen in the way we dress, the jewelry we wear, and the cars we drive. Humans have an innate desire to make things look nice and pleasing to us. Leisure is music and has existed since the earliest of times. Music is, perhaps, the most basic and universal activity of humankind. Leisure is multi-dimensional meaning there are many ways to experience a leisure activity. For example, in just one basketball game layer upon layer of leisure can be experienced. A player, coach, referee, a parent of a player, the crowd at the arena, the people watching the game on television, the people gambling on the game, the photographer, and the newspaper columnist covering the game all benefit from a leisure perspective but each category of people undoubtedly are taking away a different feeling of leisure. Leisure is considered relatively free from constraint. Time, age, money, laws, and location all factor into one’s choices on how to spend their free time. Structural constraints, intrapersonal constraints, and interpersonal constraints all inhibit participation in human’s choice in leisure. Leisure has a feeling of a positive effect meaning the individual benefits from engaging in an activity. The search for happiness is universal. Morale, happiness, psychological well being, and positive life adjustment are all indicators of the overall quality of our inner experience. Happiness is an action, moreover a good action, and leisure is part of that good action. Humans are motivated to participate in leisure by an internal force either seeking an intrinsic reward or an extrinsic reward. The actions we take for leisure purposes are what most of us want to do whether it is unconditional leisure, recuperative leisure, relational leisure, and role-determined leisure. We choose to have fun, exercise, relax, or socialize because that is what we need to survive. Leisure also has a perceived competence or ability. We expect a certain level out of ourselves or somebody else. For example, when eating at a restaurant we expect the cook to be able to cook. We expect the actors of a play to be able to perform. From the beginning of human history, leisure has been a part of everyday life. Leisure does and will forever help shape who we are as human beings.

Understanding the human development cycle we can see that leisure and how what we pursue as leisure is always changing. Throughout the life cycle leisure is considered a right or a privilege. When leisure is defined as free time, it is often viewed as a reward for work and thus a privilege for those who work. It might also be considered a gift for those with a lucky birth into privileged circumstances. As privilege, leisure is something that is distributed unequally meaning that leisure is a reward only available to those who qualify. For example, the qualifier having enough money to pay for certain forms of leisure or it can be the guilt free sensation that by the time the weekend is here, you have worked hard enough to qualify for taking some time off. As a right, leisure is supposed to be distributed equally. Most cultures believe that every human has natural or inalienable rights. These rights are described as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights believe in certain equality between everyone. Every human has a right to a good life so to speak. At the start of the life cycle is the classification of children. This class includes newborns to under the age of six. These six years are considered the most critical period of life. Children’s day-to-day activity is, for the most part, intrinsically motivated but as they grow older children seem to lose much of their intrinsic motivation and become more responsive to extrinsic reward. Activities for children emphasize rhythm, body awareness, and unstructured large movement to develop gross motor skills. Leisure at this level needs to not have a long duration due to the attentions span of children. The surplus energy theory is directly correlated to children because of the amount of freedom and energy children possess. Leisure at this age is a right because it is important for their development and need not earn any of that time. The next level in the life cycle is called older, ages six to twelve. Recreation at this level needs to focus on building strength, agility, coordination, and flexibility because physical exercise continues to be a necessary development component, particularly for promoting normal bone growth. The recreation experience is influenced by social-emotional development. Recreation promotes independence, socialization, individuality, cooperative behavior, and sensitivity to perspectives of peers. Also, advancement of motor skills allows a sense of achievement and peer acceptance. At this level the surplus energy theory, instinct practice theory, self-expression theory, and stimulus arousal theory all can be involved in the leisure activities of this age group. Leisure at this age is for the most part a right. Little responsibilities and the need to develop are reasons that leisure is absolutely necessary. The next category is the youth/adolescence, ages thirteen to under eighteen. This is the transitional period of life with many social-emotional development conflicts. Recreation activities focus on opportunities for competition, lifelong skill development, teamwork, and physical exertion. This age group the surplus energy theory, instinct practice theory, self-expression theory, stimulus arousal theory, and possibly enforced leisure can describe why certain activities are chosen. Leisure can be a right or privilege in this group. A right because of the age of this group and needs leisure to develop socially and mentally. Also, a privilege because this age group is now experiencing more responsibilities and should be rewarded if successful, reprimanded if not. The next category in life is adulthood, eighteen and over. This time period encompasses 75% or more of the total life span. Recreation activities focus on benefits of participation to the individual. Leisure is more scheduled at this level because of the responsibilities of college, occupation, intimate relationships, and family. Important theories are spillover, compensation, relaxation, and stimulus arousal. Leisure becomes more and more of a privilege at this level in life. Adulthood usually brings responsibility not only for oneself but also for others. Therefore, leisure is often achieved when it benefits others as well. For example, a father of three will more likely take his family to Disney World rather than a golf resort that only he might enjoy. The last category in the life cycle is called old old. At this age individuals cannot participate at the same level due to chronic health problems. Significant amounts of people are in restricted living conditions and have few peers as a close support group. Assistance is usually needed for cultural/social contact and often they are economically disadvantaged. Enforced leisure comes into play because of the amount of time and responsibilities this group has. Leisure at this level is a right because it already has been earned through living through the other stages of human development. Old Old unfortunately is the last stage of life and often is plagued with health problems and loneliness.

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