two black women chatting on a couch with their laptops

Most People Stay Busy So They Can Stay Happy

There are many things that differentiate the human from the animal. One of those things is the need to stay busy. Plenty of animals would be happy doing absolutely nothing, knowing that they have love, shelter and food, of course. They have no problem spending the rest of their days doing nothing. Don’t believe me? Take a look at your pup. How would people react to doing for the rest of their lives?

Work by Hsee, Yang, and Wang says that humans would be miserable if they did nothing. There is a catch-22 here. Humans can’t be busy for the sake of being busy. We get satisfaction from doing something worthwhile, but get very little satisfaction when we scroll on our phone while waiting for a latte. As long as there is some justification for doing something, regardless of how weak, we enjoy doing rather than not doing. The only reason why we do it is to stay busy, which results in greater happiness. The reason why you look for a job is to have something to do, and that something to do should produce joy.

There’s an evil side to productivity. People use to hide from their own negativity. There are times where people use work as a method to avoid problems. If they are a manager or position in power, they then take that fear towards their own team members to match their “productivity.” People who also bury their heads in work are also too busy to see the consequence of their actions. They don’t celebrate successes, nor do they look at failures. Meaningless and menial work has the opposite effect of happiness, and can lead to more harmful results like burnout and depression.