I hate it when people say they don’t have time for hobbies. Of course they have time! Everybody has time! What they really mean is, “I see no reason to prioritize a hobby.” Here’s a reason: Hobbies are good for your health. As in, the “live longer, live better” kind of good.
The Positive Side of Pastimes
Setting aside fitness-related pastimes, such as running, that offer obvious health benefits, almost all hobbies come with a mental and physical payoff. They not only provide stress relief, but can also boost creativity, manual dexterity, self-esteem, passion, pleasure, and a sense of pride.
Hobbies are usually experienced as gratifications, important activities that bring meaning and fun to life. Pastimes that require expertise are more satisfying, because developing an expertise in something requires commitment, and commitment results in a higher level of engagement. They engage us in a sense of flow, which can put us in a near-meditative state where we lose track of time and feel removed from the stressors of life.
I’m not talking about the downside of hobbies. Far from it. Regularly engaging in a diversion can gradually eliminate some of the things that bog you down day to day.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that found those who engage in physical leisure activities for at least 20 minutes once a week are less susceptible to fatigue. Other research found that enjoyable activities performed during leisure time were associated with lower blood pressure, lower total cortisol, smaller waist circumference, and lower body mass index. Such activities were also correlated with lower levels of depression.
Eustress, I stress, good stress
“Eustress” is one of those funny words that means exactly what it sounds like: “you stress.” I’m not sure where they’re hiding, but there are people in this world who are not overly stressed (say what?!), and may actually be under-stimulated. For them, hobbies provide a nice source of eustress, the healthy kind of stress that we all need to remain feeling excited about life.
If the rest of your life is somewhat dull or uninspiring, hobbies can provide meaning and fun, and can break up a boring schedule without feeling like actual work. In other words, hobbies can provide just the right amount of challenge.
Go Get One
Just 20 minutes a week can make you happy. I’m really not seeing a downside there. Seriously people, get yourselves a hobby. You don’t have to commit to the first one you try, so feel free to shop around.
What are your friends doing in their spare minutes? Consider watching your kid at play because kids are experts at fun and commit to things they love for hours without giving it a second thought. Buy a book on a subject that sparks your curiosity; perhaps a hobby will grow organically from there.
For Stress Relief
While some can be done while watching TV or listening to music, these are activities conducive to quieting the mind so it may wander.
Running, Jogging, or Walking
Knitting or Crocheting
Bird-watching, Star-gazing, or Cloud-identifying
Gardening – indoor or out
Painting — on canvas, models, or ceramics
For Creating Eustress
Every hobby can be good for everybody, but this list focuses on the under-stimulated. These pastimes require concentration and commitment.
Learning an instrument
Writing — poetry, creative writing, or autobiographical
Still at a loss? For inspiration, see Discover A Hobby for a list of over 225 hobbies.
Photo credits: johnnyberg, Carrie J. Keplinger, annamariahorner.blogspot.com, Daniel Schwen, and Jacek Bogdan