Mental Health and Hobbies: A Dynamic Duo

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A hobby is an interest or activity that we engage in outside our place of employment primarily because it brings us pleasure. We do it—whether gardening, baking, antiquing, traveling, painting, writing poetry, or tinkering with cars—because we want to. This is a welcome change from having to do the many things daily life requires of us.

Personal pursuits spark and satisfy our curiosity, get creative juices flowing, and exercise our problem solving skills. This is why people who enjoy hobbies have a lower risk for dementia and depression. Enjoyment of our favorite activities helps reduce blood pressure, relieve stress, and elevate mood. These activities add interest to our lives and make us more interesting people to be with.

Author of “Defy Aging,” Michael Brickey, writes that the best hobbies serve three purposes:

  1. They engage our passion or enthusiasm.
  2. They provide a mini vacation from our daily lives.
  3. They give us a sense of purpose.

Yet, some of our interests may only meet one or two of these purposes and still be worthy pursuits. For instance, playing video games may only serve as a diversion and not be a passion or seem purposeful, but sometimes all we want is to escape for a while.

Other benefits of pursuing hobbies:

  • Alone time. Hobbies give us time to connect with ourself away from responsibilities and the expectations of others. Sometimes while enjoying a pleasurable activity, we gain perspective on other areas of our life, or the solution to a problem may “pop” into our mind.
  • Career possibilities. A hobby can turn into a career, lead to a career change, or become a source of retirement income. This is especially true of hobbies that capture our enthusiasm and add meaning to our lives. People frequently choose to keep personal interests separate from employment, but there are individuals who successfully combine the two worlds.
  • Meeting people. Leisure pursuits provide opportunities to meet people and make friends. We can join with others who share our interests either in person or online. It is always a pleasure to spend time with people that understand and match our enthusiasm for a topic or activity; it increases our sense of connectedness.
  • Sharing. One of the chief pleasures in life is being able to share what we have created, learned, or experienced. Although we sometimes do this in our occupations, it is especially sweet to share those interests and accomplishments that we have pursued out of love. Both the giver and receiver are enriched.

Carving out time to enjoy our interests is one of the best things we can do for our mental and physical health. Hobbies provide a lifetime of pleasurable learning and we may discover new talents and interests through our pursuits. Their energizing and uplifting effect will also spill over into our relationships, enriching time spent with our spouse, family, and friends.

January is National Hobby Month. The January doldrums are a perfect time to re-engage an old interest or experiment with a new one.

 
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