A hobby is a fantastic way to relax and do something you enjoy away from the stresses of your daily routine. Whether it’s a sport or outdoor activity, or just some mental downtime spent reading or painting, a hobby is great for unwinding and leaving behind the cares of the day.
In addition, hobbies can also have an impact on your physical and mental health. Certain kinds of hobbies are believed to help lower stress, elevate mood, reduce the likelihood of depression and improve your general wellbeing. For some people this impact is significant, and for others it’s more subtle.
Types of hobbies
A hobby is technically anything you do in your leisure time that is not part of your work or your daily routine. It could be something you do alone or in a group, something energetic such as netball or tennis, or something calming like meditation or yoga. The main thing is that it’s something you enjoy doing.
Hobbies are more popular than ever these days, and particularly so with retirees. In fact, 33% of seniors plan on taking up new interests or hobbies in their senior years.
Types of hobbies can include gardening, fishing, hiking, dancing, reading, yoga, cooking, sewing, writing, model building, team sports, jogging, pottery, photography, bird watching, stamp collecting, fossil hunting, sailing, astronomy … in fact, anything that’s pursued purely for the enjoyment it provides.
Benefits of hobbies
The following are some of the benefits that having a hobby can bring you:
Physical hobbies such as team sports, dancing and hiking are a great way to stay in shape without having to go to the gym. They increase heart rate and brain function, lower blood pressure, contribute to weight loss, build muscle, strengthen bones, boost the immune system and increase overall energy levels.
Coming home to a relaxing hobby such as reading, painting or playing the piano provides the perfect outlet for releasing stress that’s built up during the day. And people who have hobbies are believed to be able to deal better with stressful events in their lives.
Creative hobbies are believed to increase positivity and sense of wellbeing by expanding neural connections in the brain. This is linked to the release of feel-good hormones like dopamine and creative activities include everything from writing and music to art and photography.
Hobbies that challenge the mind can help to improve creativity, confidence, self-esteem, decision-making and may help to ward off depression and the onset of dementia in later life.
Other health benefits of hobbies include their ability to boost the immune system, improve flexibility, slow memory loss, improve the quality of sleep and assist with overall longevity.
There is now a large body of research who believe strongly that hobbies are good for you. One of the most definitive studies took place in 2010, when a group of US researchers studied over a thousand people with various health problems and found that having a hobby had a noticeable effect on their health.
This study led to the development of the Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test, a scale designed to measure the effect of hobbies and leisure pursuits on overall health.
Other benefits of hobbies
As well as improving physical and mental health, hobbies can be beneficial in other ways including;
Group activities such as team sports, focused hobby groups and even online communities can improve communication and relationship building skills, and help you feel less isolated through shared experience.
Creative hobbies like writing, designing or learning a language can keep you productive and instil in you a sense of purpose, satisfaction and achievement.
Hobbies such as yoga, meditation and art can help you mentally declutter and achieve a state of mindfulness (being in the present).
Hobbies can provide the mental space for you to stretch your imagination, see the world in new ways and come up with creative new ideas.
A hobby can help you make extra money on the side or even become a full time job or business opportunity (for example, Facebook was a hobby, and Microsoft started in a garage).
Hobbies can help you to improve yourself, from widening your horizons by learning a new language to losing weight or honing your attention to detail.
Studies have shown that having a hobby can also help to give your life a greater sense of meaning and purpose, increase your circle of friends, give you more patience, and even improve your performance at work.
Choosing a hobby
If you’re thinking about taking up a hobby, but you aren’t sure what to try, the first thing you should do is to think about what interests you and what you enjoy doing most.
The following questions can also help you to narrow down your hobby of choice:
- Are you the kind of person who likes competition?
- Do you like doing things alone or are you happier in the company of others?
- Do you have a particular skill that you would like to develop?
- Do you need more physical activity in your life?
- Do you have a favourite childhood hobby that you’d like to revisit and perhaps expand on?
- Are you looking for a hobby that will challenge you?
- How much spare time do you have to devote to a hobby?
- How much money can you afford to put towards your new hobby?
Hopefully, after answering a few questions like these, you will have a better idea of what you want from your hobby and what would be a realistic pastime to settle on. Then, once you know what your hobby is, it’s really just a matter of doing some research, buying your materials and jumping right in with both feet.
Or if you’d rather look before you leap, there are hundreds of clubs and associations online who could put you in touch with local practitioners of your chosen hobby. They would no doubt be only too happy to show you what’s involved and welcome you aboard if you like what you see.