A short working week is good for your mental health – but it made me miserable | Society

The essential ingredients of happiness are having someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to. Great aphorisms have many fathers; I have seen this one attributed to Kant, Aristotle and Mae West, which is a decent line-up for a fantasy dinner party. Having someone to love and something to look forward to ideally go hand in hand. Having something to do is the key challenge.

I read with interest the story about just one day of work a week (and not necessarily more than that) improving mental health. I don’t feel I have the right to comment on the struggles of those substantially less fortunate than I have been all my life, but I do have a view on this.

After years of being on television more or less every day, presenting Working Lunch, Match of the Day 2, The One Show, Daybreak and so on, I suddenly found myself having only ITV’s football coverage to do. The work, in its own way, was challenging, but worked out at around two matches every three weeks. At last, I thought, my dream had come true. I needed the break, and the public certainly needed a break from me. I remained very well paid indeed, and hardly had anything to do.

I can honestly say that I have never been so miserable, before or since. All the things that I said I would do, such as write a novel or cook in a restaurant, I didn’t do. Mea culpa. I felt guilty for feeling it then, and saying it now, but it was an awful time. I needed someone to give me something to do and force me to do it. For fools such as me, compulsory volunteering is surely the answer.

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