One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “What is your hobby?” The responses vary from, “what is a hobby?” to “playing on my phone,” to blank stares, to “who has time for a hobby?”
With the never-ending tasks, errands, emails and messages, it can seem daunting to add something else to your weekly routine. But as we continue to see a rise in mental health issues, now more than ever is the time to pick a hobby and make it a priority.
A 2009 study showed that more time spent on leisure activities was correlated with lower blood pressure, lower levels of depression and stress, and overall better psychological and physical functioning.
The mental health benefits of hobbies
According to dictionary.com, a hobby is “regular activity done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time, not professionally and not for pay.” A better way to think of a hobby is as a passion.
More and more, we are focused on “being productive” and measure the success of a day by how many items we mark off a to-do list. Imagine making a hobby a priority, setting time aside each week for something you simply enjoy and do for the pleasure of the activity.
Here are five reasons to pick a hobby today, make your hobby a priority and participate weekly in your hobby.
A hobby gives you purpose.
Day-to-day jobs can take a toll on your overall mental and emotional health. A hobby helps you take time away from the daily grind and can help you find that zest for life which may be missing. It gives you something to look forward to during the day and can help you accomplish new goals or challenges which you may have never thought you were capable of. This enthusiasm can then roll over to reinvigorate your day job.
It gives you something to look forward to during the day and can help you accomplish new goals or challenges which you may have never thought you were capable of.
A hobby fosters deeper connections.
Hobbies give diversity to your personality. Having a passion or leisurely pursuit leads to conversations beyond your scope of work. This can lead to deeper connections with co-workers, friends and other acquaintances. Group hobbies such as gardening, dancing or cooking classes can help you meet new people.
A hobby builds resilience.
Life is hard. But developing a new passion or hobby can allow you to take chances, fail and become a stronger individual. If you choose a hobby like gardening, your first set of vegetables or herbs may be a complete failure. But stick with the activity, learn how to be successful and eventually, this can lead to proficiency. This can spill over to your work.
We all fail from time to time. It is not the number of times you fail that is significant, but your ability to continue to pursue the activity and develop expertise.
A hobby boosts creativity.
Having a hobby can also improve creativity. Many hobbies involve art in some form. A hobby allows you to completely step away from work. It allows your mind to wander and empowers you to see new points of view, think outside the box and come up with better solutions.
A hobby helps you achieve your goals.
A hobby can help you be goal-oriented. With any new skill or hobby, there are varying levels of expertise. Setting your own goals and reaching those goals allows you to experience personal success. This serves as a buffer at work during the difficult days.
I love running. During a long marathon of a day, when I am ready to walk out of the office, this mimics my long runs when I am ready to quit at mile five. Running has made me stronger mentally and physically.
9 hobbies to try if you don’t know where to start
The next step is picking a hobby. There is no perfect or “right” hobby. It should be something that you find pleasurable and that helps you decompress. It is something you do simply for the joy of the activity. It can be a solitary or group activity, and it can be physical or mental.
If you’re looking for ideas, here are some hobbies to consider:
- Exercise (try different types until you find one you enjoy)
- Cooking or baking
- Coin collecting
- Art (painting, sculpting, pottery, etc.)
- Learning a new instrument
I have taken my own advice when working on this article. In the past month, I have started wake boarding and horseback riding. I have face planted multiple times while wake boarding, but developing the new skill and seeing improvement over time is encouraging. My daughters, who are five and seven, are giving me horseback riding lessons! They spend the whole time giggling, telling me what I am doing wrong.
Here’s the bottom line: A hobby isn’t just another item to add to your growing to-do list. It’s something you do for yourself simply because you want to.
So, think of something that you have always wanted to do, make the time for it, take lessons if necessary. If you have a significant other, have him or her join in and strengthen your relationship while you’re at it.
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About the author
Anne Marie Eschberger, MD, is a family medicine physician at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – College Station University Drive. She received her medical degree and completed her residency in family medicine at Texas A&M University Health Science Center. She currently resides in College Station with her husband, two daughters and son. Her hobbies include anything outdoors, photography and reading.