Want to be happier? Banish the word 'busy' from your vocabulary

Research suggests negative words can influence emotions

Does using the word "busy" make people unhappy? Writing in the Washington Post's "Inspired Life" blog, Megan Wycklendt gives six reasons to banish "busy" from your lexicon.

According to a study in the Journal of Psychological Science, people are happier when they are active. Yet, people often complain of being overwhelmed by their busy schedule, observes Wycklendt.

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Citing studies on the relationship between language and emotion, Wycklendt suggests, "it may not be our 'to do list' that is the source of our unhappiness," but rather the language people use to describe their experiences.

She offers these reasons why using the word "busy" could be negatively affecting your mental health:

    1. It takes you out of the moment. Being busy, Wycklendt observes, is another way of saying you are preoccupied. Rather than finding pleasure in the present moment, you start thinking about the all the items on your to-do list.

    2. It pushes other people away. "Saying you're too busy is like telling the other person they have too much time," she writes. Even if you are busy working on a worthy cause, saying so can seem demeaning or self-centered. Making time for other people is an important way to bolster your mental health.

    3. It is something we choose. Being busy is a choice. Wycklendt suggests that people who complain about being busy evaluate how their choices have created the situation. If being busy is not producing the payoff you had hoped for, "make a change."

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    4. It is an excuse. People often use being busy as a catch-all excuse to avoid commitments. Instead, Wycklendt suggests people "[t]ell it how it is, so your loved ones don't constantly hear that you are 'too busy' for them."

    5. It detaches you from your emotions. "Busy is not a feeling," observes Wycklendt. When people ask how you are doing, she says, "It's okay to be honest." Take a moment to really think about how you feel and share it with others.

    6. It is a missed opportunity. "Summing up your life as 'busy' doesn't acknowledge all the good things you are doing," Wycklendt writes. Instead, try using more positive words like active or lively. Changing your word choice is a simple way to reframe how you experience the day (Wycklendt, "Inspired Life," Washington Post, 3/17).

The takeaway: Word choice can affect how we feel. One writer gives six reasons to avoid the word "busy" in daily conversation.


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