Ever feel like you absolutely cannot watch another streaming episode of anything? Need a way to keep busy that can improve your health? Want to learn skills you need in your work or everyday life anyway…just by doing stuff you love to do?
You need a hobby.
Carving out “me” time on your days off or after the kids are asleep is tough stuff, that’s true. Also, it might sometimes feel awkward for adults to talk about finding a hobby or chat about their interests with others, especially if it doesn’t involve binge-watching or happy hours. And finding the “right” new hobby from thousands of options? Not always easy.
But all these things are doable. And worth doing.
What’s A Hobby?
Way back in the 13th century, the word “hobby” meant “a small horse” – a pony.
Later on, it came to describe a popular toy: a hobbyhorse. That’s basically where we got the word’s modern use.
A hobby is something that you do for fun or personal fulfillment. If you really enjoy doing some non-work related activity in your free time, and you do it regularly, then congrats: you already have a hobby.
Hobbies aren’t just time fillers, though, or things you do just because you’re bored.
- They can quickly turn into passions, and give your life extra meaning.
- They can teach you skills useful in other areas of your life.
- They’re good for your mind and body.
The Most Exciting Part About Hobbies
They can be whatever you want. Really!
Yours may be painting miniatures, or learning to speak a second language fluently, or even journaling. You might garden in the summer and throw on a pottery wheel in the winter. Some people collect stamps or coins, others blow glass (with their mouths!) using thousand-degree ovens, or climb cliff faces with their bare hands – it’s all about what speaks to you.
Hobbies Teach You Real-World Skills
The hobby you choose can also help you improve real skills that are important to your non-hobby life.
Do you want to get better at critical thinking and problem solving? Play chess.
Want to improve your teamwork skills and focus? Multiplayer video games can help.
Want to communicate more effectively, with less dread that you’ll be misunderstood? Practice creative writing.
So, if you’re looking to pick up a new way to pass the time and also develop skills you need to enhance your proficiency and productivity in other key areas of your life, there are endless things you can learn from hobbies.
How Do I Start a Hobby?
The best way to go for broke in your search for a brand-new hobby is to just do something pretty simple.
Try something new.
The world is full of wonderful, exciting activities that we can explore and adapt as our own. Of course, all of us are unique. Our interests vary. But once we find a hobby that we truly enjoy and are passionate about, it’s easy to understand why people get hooked. Passionately pursuing something just for the satisfaction of the thing captivates us, and it’s a deeply personal feeling.
And if you don’t end up falling in love with a new hobby, it’s cool. One of the pleasures of a hobby is that it is usually pretty low-stakes.
Most Hobbies Don’t Really Have Commitments
Team sports and other social hobbies aside, most activities that fall under the broad “hobby” umbrella aren’t tied to deadlines or pressure of any kind. You’re free to try whatever you find interesting with no strings attached. Take as long as you want to explore something new; nobody’s waiting for you to finish.
If it turns out a certain hobby is not for you, no harm done! There are hundreds of other things to go back out and try.
And good news…
Hobbies Are Healthy
Having a hobby isn’t just about passing time or making something cool. It’s crucial for our well-being and mental health.
A health psychologist, Matthew Zawadzki, at the University of California, Merced, conducted a study in 2015 that showed leisure activity like hobbies can result in immediate stress relief. Less stress has been shown to have a ton of benefits on mental and physical well-being, like better focus, increased motivation, and a longer life.
“If we start thinking about that beneficial carryover effect day after day, year after year, it starts to make sense how leisure can help improve health.” says Zawadzki.
Different hobbies can have different direct benefits, of course, but reducing stress through engaging in an activity you genuinely find enjoyable seems to be the common result. And don’t overlook the fact that lots of hobbies sort of cross-pollinate with one another – tai chi can be thought of as both a mental hobby as well as a physical one, and you can do it socially or solo.
Check out how each “type” of hobby can help, and notice how there’s some overlap.
The Benefits of Physical Hobbies
Physical hobbies – things like running, mountain biking, or yoga – have some pretty clear effects on the body. They increase your heart rate, stimulate brain function, and can even be a meditative experience for some. Lower blood pressure, stronger muscle, and an overall increase in energy are hard to refute in terms of their effect on our health.
Here are some popular examples: hiking, kayaking, yoga, climbing, distance running, weightlifting, tai chi, martial arts, and nearly all competitive sports.
The Benefits of Creative Hobbies
The mental and emotional benefits of creating art have been well-known for decades. There are so many ways to tap into our creativity and spend our spare time passionately making something. A “creative hobby” can be almost anything.
Hobbies like painting, drawing, playing an instrument, songwriting, dance, and many others, can be especially helpful for training your brain to go with the flow, learn patterns, explore new ideas, and be more creative in other important areas of your life.
There are more creative hobbies than are reasonable to list, so here are a few ideas: watercolors, illustration, graphic design, cosplay, stained glass, blogging, coding, drawing, sculpture, fashion design, piano, songwriting…
The Benefits of “Mental” and Solo Hobbies
Cooking, playing chess, penning a novel; all of these are examples of hobbies that use your brain…to improve your brain. And many of them can be done all by yourself, if that’s your thing.
Cooking improves on the ability to focus, multitask, and pay attention to detail (not to mention simultaneously stimulating creativity). Chess is a game played in silence, with endless fascinating combinations to study and learn; mathlike in its complexity. Writing challenges your mind to think from different perspectives, teaches you to trust yourself, and helps you organize concepts.
Here are some hobbies that center on using your brain, and also positively affect your mental health: chess, guitar, cooking, baking, journaling, gardening, scrapbooking, writing, photography, painting, puzzles, language, knitting and crochet, calligraphy…
The Benefits of “Social” Hobbies
Common interests are a great way to socialize and meet new people. Social hobbies help you bond with others and create friendships (read: more person-to-person support in your life that helps combat stress).
Whole platforms and apps exist for people to meet, eat, learn, play games, share work, escape their comfort zones, try languages, and pursue their passions together. In any city in the US there are dozens of groups for all kinds of activities.
Some examples of social hobbies include: playing board games, language lessons, eating at new restaurants, going to the theatre, book clubs, podcasting, esports, comic book conventions, multiplayer video games, playing and listening to music, sports, cooking classes, food tours, paint-and-sips…
The Unfortunate Side Effects of Being Hobbyless
Not having a hobby can actually negatively affect your health.
Hobbies seem to protect your brain. Researcher T.F. Hughes examined how hobbies impacted peoples’ lives, and discovered that engaging in something enjoyable for one or more hours each day may protect against dementia later in life. Having a hobby could also result in being more functional when you’re older, too, says another study.
They can also have an effect on the way your heart works. The goal of one study in 2010 was to “characterize the effect of enjoying hobbies” on coronary health. Researchers found that having a hobby was associated with heart arteries that dilated more easily, a key indicator of heart health.
A study of 8,780 adults reported that hobbies were associated with a decrease in depressive symptoms.
Hobbies Are The Perfect Way To Pass Time
Boredom, especially these days, seems to lurk around every corner because many of us are, for the most part, stuck at home. And that can make the hours seem endlessly blank.
We sometimes refer to hobbies as “pastimes” for good reason. Filling up the hours they’d normally spend anxiously looking for something to do with something to do should convince anyone that trying something new is a step in the right direction.
Hobbies and Flow
Ever heard of flow? You’ve probably experienced it at some point. If you haven’t, you should.
Some people call it The Zone. Flow was popularized by psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura, and describes a state in which you are fully immersed in whatever you are doing.
Flow is a sense of fluidity between your mind, body, and the world around you, wherein you remain deeply focused on something, absorbed and undistracted. While in a flow state, it’s easy to lose track of the time (goodbye, boredom and anxiety!). Your senses can feel heightened. You forget to check your phone or don’t notice that your playlist has ended.
When you’re experiencing flow, you may not even realize it at the time. You are at one with the task at hand. Action and awareness sync.
Flow is a fabulous way to pass the time.
Embarking on a hobby makes flow accessible. It hardly seems to matter what your hobby is. Everyone from athletes to gamers to mathematicians to painters to DIY plumbers have reported experiencing flow.
“The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile,” states Csikszentmihalyi.
Concentration is key, which is why so many people experience flow when engaged in a hobby they love.
Hobbies Can Help You At Work
Having a hobby can help you perform better at your 9-5. A study of 400 employees published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology noted big differences between people who had creative hobbies and those who didn’t.
Other research suggests that workers with creative outlets are more satisfied with their careers, and have a lower likelihood of burnout.
And of course, there are any number of hobbies that help you develop skills you can use directly at your job. The key thing to remember is that work is not a hobby. You’ll enjoy developing skills more if you apply them in a way you find stimulating, and you’ll retain what you learned better.
How to Find a Hobby that Fits Your Life
Hobbies involve putting action to your interests. They take a little time (sometimes a lot of time), and often a little seed money.
And of course, you should be excited to do your hobby! It shouldn’t feel like work, and you shouldn’t feel extra stress from trying to make time. Honestly, you’ll probably find that you don’t need to look very hard to discover something worth exploring.
20 Questions to Help You Find The Right Hobby
Devoting your time and energy to learning something new is amazing. It can feel like watching the world open up, but possibilities can be intimidating! If you’ve never had a hobby, and don’t know what to try, the choices might be overwhelming.
Here are some questions you can use to help narrow them down:
- Do you like solo activities, or social ones?
- Are you into games?
- Are you looking for something to do with your hands?
- Do you have other goals to which a hobby might contribute?
- How do you feel about competition?
- Are you hoping to re-hone an old skill?
- What did you do when you were a kid that you might revisit now?
- Is there a skill you want to develop?
- Do you like being outdoors?
- How do you want to be challenged? Do you want to be challenged?
- How much money do you have to devote?
- What do you have time for?
- Are you looking for community?
- What kinds of benefits are you hoping to get?
- What’s the last thing that captured your imagination?
- Do you want to get your kids or family involved?
- Does volunteering speak to you?
- Do you want to eventually make money with your new hobby?
- Will you have space to store anything you need (like a kayak?)
- What inspires you?
How To Make A Hobby Stick
Finding a hobby and sticking with a hobby are two different actions with different results. However, there are some easy ways you can make a hobby something you’ll enjoy enough to continue returning to it on a regular basis.
Rekindle Old Passions
You’ve probably forgotten more about one of your old hobbies than many people know after years of practice. So consider finding some time to break out your old sax or dig out your French-to-English dictionary!
Revisit the stuff you once loved, and see if you rediscover something worth diving back into. This can often feel much more comfortable than striking out into uncharted territory, and it’s likely you remember more than you think. Bonus: you may already own all the stuff you need to get back into it.
Don’t Find the Time…Make The Time
“I’m too busy to really get into a hobby!”
Think of all the times in the last year where you spent a good chunk of your weekend watching TV, or spent whole days running errands because you procrastinated them the week before, or just paced your place feeling listless.
That’s all prime hobby time.
Writer Sarah White from Lifehack suggests, “If you’re adding a new thing into your life, you have to take time and focus away from something else. The good news is that most of us have a lot of time we’re not using well,”
With a bit of thought, planning, and shifting of your priorities, you’ve probably got the time to pursue a new hobby.
Be realistic. Of course we can’t do everything on our list in one weekend and also leisurely plumb the technicolor depths of our creative sides. You’ll need to move some stuff around.
This can mean trying a new hobby that’s way outside of your comfort zone. Challenging yourself can also mean just finding interesting and fun ways to grow your expertise in a hobby, deepen your connection, and chart your progress.
For example, take Inktober. It’s a challenge for people who love to draw. Taking part means you’ll make your best effort to create a drawing (in ink) every day through October – 31 new pieces – and share them on social media with other artists who are taking part.
There’s also NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Each day in November, writers are challenged to write 1,667 words in the drafts of their future novels. The end goal of the challenge is to reach 50,000 words.
But you don’t need an official structure, if that doesn’t vibe with you. Here are some other challenge ideas you can adapt:
– Take 10 photographs a day for one month, and curate your final selections at the end to share with friends and family
– Learn to play your favorite song on an instrument and record yourself to listen to and improve
– Add 100 new vocabulary words to your new language repertoire
– Write three pages in your journal every morning (like in The Artist’s Way) for a week, a month, three months…
– Win ten chess games in a row against different opponents
It can begin as simply as challenging yourself to take one hour per day to devote to your hobby. Assigning small, attainable goals to your hobby creates motivation and excitement, and makes you more likely to follow through.
And it’s worth mentioning that accountability can go a long way in promoting “healthy habits” in your hobby. Tell people your goals. Share your results. Talk about how you’ve changed. Give it a try and see.
Find Community And Mentorship
No matter where you live, the chances are good that there is something out there, in your local community or online, who understands your hobby and can inspire and guide you.
Mentorship can manifest in a lot of different ways, like taking lessons with a tutor, ad hoc coaching, once-weekly meetups, or just feedback sessions. Simply put, working on a new hobby with someone who already understands it enables you to tap into real possibilities.
With new hobbies, figuring out the “do’s and don’ts” is often a trial and error process, and that can lead to waning motivation. With the right mentor, your journey toward a new passion becomes a lot more structured, and less intimidating.
Keep Track of Your Progress
A key motivator in sticking with a hobby is seeing yourself progress and grow. Most people get bored in a hobby when they feel like they’re not learning anything new anymore, or feel like they have plateaued.
Consider what’s important to you in your hobby and pay attention to how you develop in those areas. The question is: what motivates you most? Find a way to track that!
Keep a log of your projects in a journal, or jot down the exciting new things you pick up along the way. Post a photo of every one of your bungee jumps. Take pics of your work (or works in progress), if your hobby is visual; keep a record of wins and losses if you’re into playing games with friends; or share recipes and tasting notes.
At the end of the day, really, you are the one who most understands what motivates you, inspires you, or keeps you curious. Build personal hobby challenges around those things and trust yourself. You’ll grow!
What’s Your Thing?
Research has shown that people with hobbies experience better moods and more positive mental states of being. They also indicate that having a hobby can lead to reduced stress, stronger physical health, and an enhanced quality of life overall.
When you stop to consider the true importance of having a hobby, though, it’s not just diminished symptoms or better physical health we’re talking about – we’re really talking about thriving. Creativity, satisfaction, learning new things, meaningful connections, and interesting practices are essential, in concert with all the other things we do in the name of “self-care”, to our happiness. And finding a new hobby isn’t all that difficult if you’re open to possibility.
So what’s really stopping you from pursuing the next thing you’re passionate about?