A New Perspective on Making The Most of Your Weekend  -  And What the Hell is Type 2 Fun?

Read time: 5-6 min

When it comes to choosing how to spend our free time, there are two kinds of people: 

In the first category is those who choose the passive route. After working hard all week, they want nothing more than to relax around the house with no obligations, Netflix-and-chill their way to Sunday, and immerse themselves in sweet-nothing.

It’s a goal most of us can relate with, and it seems to have our best interests at heart: we worked hard all week, and now we need a rest.

The second category belongs to those who don’t seem satisfied with ‘taking a break.’ Instead of relaxing over holidays and weekends, they seek out opportunities to use even more energy by hiking up mountains, waking at the crack of dawn to take photos, or filling their Saturday afternoons with dance lessons.

To the weekend-relaxers, this looks totally backwards. After burning yourself out all week, why use your precious free-time to do something hard?


The ‘Rest’ Your Brain Really Wants  //

But if the goal of a weekend is a happier Monday, doing stuff might actually be superior to doing nothing.

The problem is that despite our best efforts, our brains don’t actually like to be turned off. In fact, they don’t really know what ‘off’ is. According to Matthew Edlund, a rest and regeneration expert at the Center for Circadian Medicine, the brain is not as big a fan of doing nothing as you think. Instead, it prefers when you give it voluntary, stimulating jobs. Something fun it can sink its teeth into.

Yes, your brain has teeth.

“The idea that rest is something that you lie down and 'do nothing' is really not how the body operates. The body is always rebuilding itself, but it rebuilds much better if you vary activities. 'Turn off your brain' is not really what you want to do. What you want to do is engage your brain elsewhere," says Edlund.

What this translates to is a simple but surprising fact: we are at our happiest not when we are sloth-like, but when we are engaged in some activity that challenges and stimulates us.

There’s another name for this state: it’s called flow, and your best adventures have always been powered by it.

This idea of flow comes from Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. When it comes to explaining why we should adventure more, few have said it better:

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

Basically, the activities we find most rewarding are ones that get us so involved that nothing else seems to matter. Our energies are all used up, and we don’t have any left for pointless worries. This has the odd effect of putting your mind at ease. It’s a meditation of its own kind.


The Challenge Balance  //

The balance comes in finding an activity that’s challenging enough to use up your mental energy, but not so hard it causes you more stress. It’s about knowing what you can do, and then adding a plus one.

You’ve probably experienced the feeling before as some variation of the following:

You just started snowboarding, and an afternoon on the bunny hill is enough to make you forget all about office politics, as you try desperately not to fall on your ass. Two months later, a cruise down that same slope will be boring, and your mind will wander back to those nagging questions about what’s for dinner, or who said what last Thursday. You’ve outgrown the bunny hill, and need a new challenge.

Self-improvement isn’t necessarily the goal; it’s more like a byproduct. The goal is simply to go get wrapped up in something you love, and the benefits will take care of themselves. And the better you become at finding your next level of challenge, the more time you’ll spend in your “flow” state, which is essentially your happy place.

Type 2 Fun - The Fun that Lasts  //

The debate over how to spend our free time isn’t new. University of Calgary sociologist Robert A. Stebbins stated back in 1982 that there are two types of fun (or leisure, as he calls it): Casual and Serious. Others have referred to these loosely as Type 1 and Type 2 fun.

Type 1 is your weekend on the couch, it’s unplugging and turning off for some rest – or at least it would be if your brain had an off switch. But since it doesn’t, it’s possible that type 1 fun isn’t as restful or rewarding as you think.

And while it does feel good in the moment, Type 1 fun rarely leaves a lasting impression on us, or changes our life in any great way. For example, you don’t hear too many people telling their grandkids about the TV marathon they had that one weekend.

Type 2 Fun is what Stebbins calls ‘the pursuit of an activity that is substantial, interesting, and fulfilling.’ It’s where hobbies like model building and playing soccer come in. It’s taking your camera out to photograph sunrises or cityscapes. It’s your adventure up the mountain or down the river.

Type 2 fun is for activities that might be challenging in the moment, but leave us satisfied and fulfilled afterwards. It’s a matter of the challenge sweetening the reward, but it’s also just how your brain works. We end up feeling happier and more fulfilled when we’ve been involved in something that at the very least ‘keeps us busy,’ which you may recall your mom going on about.

Turns out she had some science behind her.

So this is a call to take charge of your free time. Not to cancel out your moments of nothingness, your relaxing sofa sessions, because you need those too. What we suggest is giving a greater timeshare to adventure, to challenges of the enjoyable kind, to picking up a hobby and pouring yourself into it for a few hours each weekend.

It might be the best rest you ever had.

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