Hobbies: Many have them and we seem to always encourage one another to get involved in interesting things. With guidance from activity-specific blogs, Pinterest, and how-to tutorials available to us any time, anywhere, developing a hobby seems like it should be easy. However, a surprisingly large number of people are unsure how to respond when asked about their interests. And are hobbies really that important to our daily functioning anyway? Absolutely!
Many people devote down time to their smart phones, tablets, and, of course, the TV. Don’t get me wrong. These are pretty great ways to pass time. However, when done constantly, it leaves that creative part of our brain just sitting there, with nothing to do. This can lead to feeling unfulfilled in life and stuck. That’s when worries start creeping in and anxiety can begin taking hold. Maybe when you sit down to relax for the night or the weekend, you zone out and don’t think of much but later on you’ve found that you have bitten all your fingernails down, you ate all of your snack foods, or your leg was jiggling uncontrollably the whole time. This is boredom, anxiety, and worry.
So why is it so important we have hobbies?
Engaging in an activity that interests you and holds your focus increases the levels of neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and endorphins, in your brain. These are the chemicals that make you feel good and increase your energy level. With this increased energy, you will feel more productive and less sluggish in other areas of your life.
As you begin experiencing small successes with a new skill, your self-esteem and self-confidence begin to grow. This can cause improved performance at work, as well as improvements in your relationships. Studies have shown an increase in creative problem-solving for workers who have hobbies outside of their job.
Pursuing a hobby often requires you to make connections with new people because you are reaching out to learn about a new skill. Exploring hobbies gives you more positive topics to talk about with others and provides common ground when talking with new acquaintances. They also allow you to develop a stronger sense of identity instead of only defining yourself by your job or role in your family. You are also a painter, a cook, a yogi, a runner.
Hobbies relieve stress, which not only improves your emotional health, but your physical health. Stress is related to a myriad of health problems, namely high blood pressure, headaches, sleep disturbance, and fatigue. Engaging in enjoyable activities you find fun is an important part of a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Our modern conveniences are meant to free up large amounts of time so we can, theoretically, have more time for fun and loved ones. Have you ever noticed, though, that our to-do lists seem to immediately expand to fit all free time available? Your free time suddenly disappears to things that aren’t very much fun and it seems insurmountable to find time for burgeoning interests, which don’t make you money or check off items from that ever-growing list. So how can you begin incorporating hobbies in your agenda?
PRIORITIZE & COMMIT
Make it important. If you continue to say, “yeah, a hobby would probably be nice”, that just won’t cut it. You need to convince yourself that it is worthwhile and beneficial for you (see the aforementioned reasons). Start by scheduling in some time once or twice a week. Perhaps before you settle into binge watching the newest season of your favorite show. Take 20 minutes to work on your chosen hobby or exploring potential interests.
SCORE A DEAL
Groupon and Living Social are wonderful ways to begin exploring potential hobbies on a budget. Buy a few salsa dancing lessons, yoga classes, or BYOB painting classes. Cruising these coupon websites can be a great way to get ideas about the kinds of hobbies that are available to you in your neighborhood.
IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, CHANGE IT
If you find out that while it would have been really great to learn “Stairway to Heaven” on the ukulele, you actually have little musical talent and it wasn’t actually fun for you. Try something different! Who knows, maybe you should be making pottery, discovering how beautiful stamps can actually be, knitting a sweater, exploring your sensitive palette tasting wines, or learning to make paella. Don’t get too hung up on what the activity is, whether or not it seems cool or dorky. Try to hold back on judging the hobby. What matters is how it makes you feel. There are countless hobbies; it is almost guaranteed that there is at least one out there that’s perfect for you.
Once you find your calling, that thing that makes your heart sing, that you can’t wait to do when you get home, don’t hold back. Let go and really immerse yourself in the culture and community of it. It will add more depth and meaning to the hobby for you, adding to the amount of satisfaction you glean from it.
The bottom line is, even though hobbies can end up costing you a little bit of money and they take up precious time in your busy schedule, they’re worth it! Having a hobby will give you the energy and motivation you will need to tackle your to-do list, have you feeling more self-confident, give you interesting topics to discuss with others, and lead to higher satisfaction from your life.