I found a fascinating article on left-leaning/progressive news source AlterNet today that I think is the ultimate feel-good article: apparently working less hours and having more leisure time can reduce global warming. If you read the article at the link, that will give you the best idea of how this works; I'm no climatologist, so I can't really give an effective summary. Also, the study isn't perfect; it doesn't take into account what people would do with more leisure time. What I can say, though, is that the message of the article makes sense.
So often in our present-day society, at least here in the USA, so much emphasis is placed on production and profit - how much can I produce? How much can I contribute materially? And most of all, how much profit will it make us all? It's the maxim here that a productive citizen is a good citizen, and those who don't contribute in the form of being employed are ridiculed, criticized, lambasted, etc. I'm not saying this is necessarily bad, but sometimes even those who are employed are subject to this treatment if even after they earn whatever is given them they still can't support themselves. Hard work is the only way to avoid condemnation, and even then that's no guarantee.
I could go into a pages-long rant about how the economic structure of the US is screwed up and only benefits the super-rich and makes wage slaves out of the rest of us, blah blah blah...but that's not the point of this post. The point is that this constant drive to produce, work, and measurably create profit is not only killing our mental health, in the form of work-related stress, mental breakdowns and anguish from job-related worries, and just plain burnout; it's also killing the planet. This constant drive for hard work requires resources and their consumption. If we all work hard constantly, sooner or later the resources required to sustain that hard work will be exhausted.
Yes, hard work can earn you more money, but money can't buy you time, the ultimate thing you need to rest and relax. It can only buy things requiring hard work and resources others use. And what good is that if you don't have the time to use them...or end up killing the environment in the process?
Now, I'm not advocating anyone quit their jobs here...keeping busy is one good way to keep the blues away, as I can attest to. And working for one's place in society is a good thing to practice, as it can teach selflessness as well as selfishness. Everyone needs to do some work to keep themselves, and others, alive. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing in this case. We need to find a balance in our lives, and that balance is not only beneficial to our lives, but the lives of all living things.
Some might balk at the idea of having too much time on their hands. Here's a hint on what to do with more free time, though: meditate. ;-)