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The importance of having a hobby for mental health
The word “hobby” sounds frivolous doesn’t it? A pass time. Perhaps it conjures up people tinkering with building ships in bottles or paper mache. Those are perfectly fine hobbies but perhaps not to your taste. Fortunately there is an endless list of activities that qualify as a hobbies thus reaping you all the potential benefits of investing time into one (or more).
WHAT the hobby is isn’t at all important. It is WHAT working on a hobby does for our brain and our quality of life. Let’s examine the many ways hobbies positively impact our bodies and our minds as well as our social life.
Check out these 10 meditative hobbies
Hobbies make you more interesting
Most of us (by most I mean more than half) fall on scale of “things to talk about” in the 1-8 range. Yes, it’s a big range due to many factors like social skills, your ratio of introversion to extroversion (we are all some degree of both), how comfortable you are with a topic being discussed or that you want to introduce into a conversation, your culture, etc.
Your hobby or hobbies not only give you some knowledge of something but also experience.
The act of performing your hobby builds skills, curiosity, focus, ability and, as humans like to share knowledge, increase you wanting to talk about it with others. That leads to new relationships forming.
Develop new friendships as an adult
Many, if not all of adults know it’s a struggle to make new friends once you get out of school. It’s a difficult lesson to learn when you get into your 30’s and 40’s and realize your social circle isn’t what you’d like it to be.
With more and more people working from home it’s become challenging to form in person connections, let’s face it we are with work people enough we don’t need to see them as a social group (it’s nice when we can be friends with them though) .
Hobbies are a wonderful resource to find like minded friends even if it’s only to share your hobby talk with. Learn from each other and bond over your love of ship building, knitting or crochet, cycling or whatever it is you enjoy.
When developing new friendships you may like this post on the Seven things you’re not supposed to talk about.
Many people develop new relationships with others as a result of their hobby.
It may start in an online group of people with the same interest or interests and then you become friends outside of the group after you realized you have additional things in common. It’s ok to have new friends that only share your hobby as an interest and there is fulfillment to be had there. In other instances you can form a lasting friendship that continues outside of that hobby itself.
Meetup.com and local facebook groups based on a specific interest have cultivated new friendships as well. You can check your local government to see what community activities they have available or the library. Even if they are a county or two over from yours you can expand your search if your closest locations are very limited.
Using your hobby to build new relationships
If nothing else if you have found in the past you are challenged with a discussion topic at a social event there is likely some element of your hobby that can be brought up that has a general appeal and spoken of in an engaging and interesting way. Granted, talking about it to an unreceptive audience or person isn’t always welcome but it’s a great ice breaker or friend maker in the appropriate instance.
Hobbies feed your brain and grow self confidence
The human brain has something called an internal audience. Think of it as your work supervisor. When you do a good job it is rewarded. Many people report the satisfaction of doing a good day’s work or a hard day’s work as very rewarding. This also occurs when you make achievements in your hobby.
As you create something, learn or master a technique, etc. you will increase the feeling of accomplishment and raise self esteem & self confidence.
This is especially useful if you don’t find your work or career fulfilling.
Imagine coming home from a stressful day or a long day caring for children, and instead of numbing out in front of the television you escape into something that invigorates you and gets your brain and body excited? It’s a great way to decompress your mind and activate good feeling hormones.
What hobby is right for me?
Wanting to try a new hobby can be overwhelming if you’re not drawn to a specific one at first. Knowing what your personality is like is key. If you have an analytical numbers focused mind you may enjoy a hobby that has some counting like knitting, whereas others like the creativity of the craft.
If you creativity dominates your personality something that is very precise requiring focus, like building models or large count puzzles, may be challenging for you.
Is being in nature something you enjoy because you work inside all day? Then gardening, hiking, nature photography or woodworking can be fulfilling.
If you like gardening make sure you’re not making the #1 gardening mistake!
Spend some time really looking at what area of life you aren’t being fulfilled in and explore hobbies that can excite and satisfy that part of you.
It’s perfectly fine to try a few and they don’t work out until you find the right one. It’s not a failure, it’s a learning process. If you’re going to invest time into your hobby long term make sure it’s a good fit.
Making hobby time a priority for your mental health and aging well
The mayo clinic conducted a study on cognitive decline and found that artistic hobbies were far and away the most effective at reducing this. Researchers had found that people who participated in painting, drawing, pottery, or similar activities (especially if they began earlier in middle age) were 73 % less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who did not.
Now that you see all the benefits of a hobby you can see how important is it to schedule time for it. Just as you would make time for other types of self care daily or weekly, making time for your hobby or hobbies is critical for your overall sense of well being.