Growing up, I had no idea that every family wasn’t infatuated with hobbies. People in my family always seemed to have more hobbies than time to do them. My mom was a superb crafter. My dad paints historical miniatures. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins have done community theater, puppeteering, hunting, comic illustration, demolition derbies, wearable art fabrication, drumming, and more.
Later, as an older but apparently not yet wise adult, I met people who were shocked at my and my family’s hobby-packed lifestyles. Meanwhile, I couldn’t understand how to manage stress without that kind of outlet. When I don’t have time for my hobbies, my life feels out balance.
You don’t need to have as many hobbies as I do to reap the mental benefits they provide. One of the great things about hobbies is they are open to anyone at any skill level, from dabbler to devotee.
Whatever hobby you choose shouldn’t feel like an obligation. It should be something you want to do, not something you have to do. And, you don’t have to commit to any particular hobby forever. Start and stop a hobby whenever you please.
5 reasons you should have a hobby
Make Mondays easier. Spend time during the weekend on a hobby, and science has shown you’re more likely to arrive at work on Monday feeling energized, refreshed, and rested. The beneficial boost that a weekend hobby delivers will dissipate in a few days, so schedule a mid-week slot as well.
Create creative balance. The kind of hobby you choose should counteract what drains you at work. When your job doesn’t require much creativity, try a crafty hobby like wood whittling, soap making, playing the theremin, sand castle building, or cosplaying. But, when your job saps your imagination dry, you’ll want to do something less artistically demanding, like mermaiding, dirt polishing, geocaching, trainspotting, or rock balancing.
Feel better. Stress is a burden on your body and your mind. Study after study has found that people are happier, healthier, more satisfied with their lives, and less stressed when they get to do a hobby they enjoy. It makes sense that hobbies deliver all these psychological and physiological benefits. Hobbies are tool for making yourself a priority in a schedule otherwise dominated by professional and personal obligations. Pick up a hobby or two, and you’ll be motivated to give yourself permission to take a break and relax.
Curtail loneliness. Hobbies can counteract loneliness and social isolation in two main ways. Put your attention toward a hobby, and you’ll distract yourself from those hopefully temporary lonely feelings by focusing on something that brings you joy. Dive into a hobby that you need to do with others, and you’ll meet people who enjoy spending their time doing the same things you do.
Become a better you. A hobby gives you the freedom to pick up new skills and have experiences that are unlikely to come up in your professional life. Is your job predictable? Do improv to tap into your inventive, spontaneous side. Spend your workday staring at a computer screen? Go bird watching to connect with nature that soars. Want to be healthier but you’re tied to a desk? Sharpen your knives and cook vegetarian food from scratch. Eager to travel abroad but don’t have enough vacation time? Learn the language spoken in your dream destination.
The top reason your boss should support your hobby
Hobbies improve job performance. Your boss would be wise to hype your hobby. Psychologists found that hobbies—especially creative ones—help employees rebound from the demands of their job, be more innovative, and perform at a higher level.
Tip off your boss that organizations looking for high-performing employees (and who wouldn’t?) should support employees’ personal pursuits. Your organization can host office food cook-offs and costume contests, encourage people to decorate their desks with their artwork, or give employees access to creative writing classes, dance lessons, arts and craft studios, and musical instruments.
What’s your hobby?
I spend my spare time on hobbies including travel photography, urban hiking, and collecting songs that have the word “monkey” in the lyrics.
What hobby—or three—do you enjoy? Share it in the comments section below and you might inspire someone else to try it out.
Don’t have a hobby? Make finding a hobby your new hobby. Try something new once a week for a month or two, and see if any of the hobbies you tried made you feel more creatively balanced and relaxed.
Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, freelance writer, and trainer based in San Francisco. She helps organizations engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website is laurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.