amiranatsheh | Research: A study of wellbeing…
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Title of Article:

Paid work, life-work and leisure:
a study of wellbeing in the context of academic lives in higher education


Key words:

enjoyment / pleasure / flow / happiness / Csikszentmihalyi / leisure / paid work / life work / challenge / skills / interest



  • “…Investigate the relationships between paid work, life work and leisure in terms of well-being associated with activity.”
  • The study was carried out for 1 week, and participants were required to input data 8 times a day about their activity, interest, visual interest, enjoyment, challenge, skill and happiness.
  • “Participation in both physical and non-physical leisure activities has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, produce positive moods and enhance self-esteem and self-concept, facilitate social interaction, increase general psychological well-being and life satisfaction and improve cognitive functioning… Of course, leisure is not a social or well-being panacea. If it is used as avoidance behaviour (in order not to face up to something that has to be done) it can increase stress.”
  • “Optimal experience or ‘flow’… could be differentiated from states of boredom, in which there is less to do than what one is capable of, and from anxiety, which occurs when things to do are more than one can cope with.”
  • Factors that could have had an effect on the study are the distortion of memories and/or incentives given to participants for completing a task (if present).
  • “(1) Paid work: any activity relating to paid employment.
    (2) Life work: an activity which is necessary for physical well-being (e.g. eating, sleeping); everyday activities, tasks or chores (e.g. shopping, getting dressed, housework and home improvements); and finally transitional activities (e.g. waiting for public transport and arriving to or leaving external venues).
    (3) Leisure: an activity which can be defined as being linked to ‘active leisure’ (Donovan et al., 2002; Iso-Ahola, 1997) and involves either physical or nonphysical activities (e.g. listening to music, watching movies or engaging in sporting activities).”
  • People may categorise activities differently, e.g. reading the newspaper as “paid work” or as “leisure.”
  • All in all, usually higher levels of enjoyment were associated with activities that were challenging but within the skill level of the person doing them.



In the context of university, this rule applies. When we, students, see that a project is challenging but achievable, we are excited to work on it. When it is not challenging enough, it seems boring and when it seems impossible to achieve, it causes high levels of anxiety and stress. Now, my question is, how do you create tasks that are perfectly challenging for 20 students, when each student is on a lightly different skill level? In the creative field this problem could be avoided because each student would have different strengths. But in other subjects, like calculus, or biological sciences, how can you keep a class of 20 students equally motivated? Does the level of ‘flow’ also correlate with the level of motivation of a person?


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