Fishing, jewellery-making, piano-playing, baking, hiking, whatever your pleasure is, hobbies have a special way of pulling us out of reality for a moment, and allowing us to immerse ourselves in meaningful activities that bring us joy. With this benefit alone, it is a wonder that hobbies are not prescribed to us all! Hobbies actually yield many tangible emotional and physical health benefits from stress relief to decreases in blood pressure. In this post, we will outline five of the reasons hobbies are considered so important to our well-being.
1. FLOW. You may have heard of the state of flow, which is characterized by intense immersion in any given activity in which the individual feels entirely focused, energized, and wholeheartedly involved in what they are doing. Flow transcends space and time, allowing individuals to focus solely on the task they are performing, and the simultaneous mental stimulation and mental break it affords them. Experiencing flow on a regular basis has been associated with greater physical and emotional health, specifically with benefits for depression and burnout prevention. There is perhaps no form of activity that promotes flow better than hobbies.
2. Social Benefits. Hobbies often get us out and about. For example, if you enjoy painting, your hobby may bring you to join an amateur painting class. Here, you may meet interesting, like-minded individuals with whom you share much in common. This could broaden your social circle and lead to meaningful friendships if this is the sort of connection you are seeking. As well, having a hobby or a pastime you feel passionate about renders you socially interesting and memorable. Of the many individuals I have met in the past at social functions, I could remember only a handful who shared interesting hobbies, such as leather-working and trivia gaming.
3. Stress-Relief. This one is a no-brainer, and likely at the top of everyone’s list. Largely due to their association with flow states, the positive emotions we experience while engaging in hobbies are highly stress-relieving. Think about it, stress and enjoyment are mutually exclusive states. That is, one cannot be simultaneously immersed in a thoroughly enjoyable activity while stressed.
4. Creativity (EVERYONE has creative abilities). Hobbies often allow us to nurture our creativity. It is unfortunate that many individuals liken creativity to the arts alone – affirming that they are “not the creative type,” if they can’t draw or carry a tune. In reality, all human beings have creative potential. We create every day at our jobs, whether we work as drama-therapists, business executives, or administrative assistants. We create in our personal lives when we cook a meal, write a sentimental card to a loved one, or plan a get-together with friends. Hobbies allow us to connect with our creative side in two ways – one, the activities we are engaging in may be creative in and of themselves (ex. ceramics), and two, the stress-relief provided by such pleasurable activities, calm our nervous system, freeing up creative energy which may transcend to all areas of life. If you’ve been searching for a business solution, unplugging by investing in your hobby may well bring about the epiphany you’ve been waiting for.
5. Purpose. Say you’ve been working a job that leaves you uninspired. You might be feeling low in general, or maybe “your love life still awaits.” Having a hobby is like a trusty pet – it is always there for us, to lift our mood, yes, but more importantly, to give us purpose. It is no secret that many individuals struggle following retirement, as they have lost their sense of doing and contributing, which may have brought their lives purpose or meaning. Having a hobby could foster these states and extend benefits to other areas such as social functioning and improved health, as we have discussed.
If you have lost touch with a hobby or activity you used to enjoy, we encourage you to reconnect with it, and find ways to slowly re-introduce it into your life. If you’ve never really had a hobby, without forcing a leisurely activity upon yourself, think about the things that have brought you joy in life. You might be surprised to discover some hidden passions or talents. Hobbies are all about fun, pleasure, and the absence of pressure or stress. We feel that any activity which arouses such enjoyable states deserves attention.