According to Wikipedia, the definition of a hobby is, “a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, during leisure time.” While that is certainly true, there are benefits beyond the pleasurable stress relief of undertaking a pastime for relaxation – here are a few of those benefits:
Joy. The obvious feeling of joy you can have participating in an activity or interest is of course worth mentioning and a vital experience as a human on their journey through life.
Scientifically, years of research has shown that participating in an activity of our choosing reduces the negative stress we can feel from what life throws our way. Perhaps a new diagnosis, hospice admittance or loss of a loved one has your world turned upside down. And, patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from a hobby – caregivers are under extreme levels of stress and anxiety, too. A hobby allows them to focus on other things, if even for a short time. It’s a very cathartic process.
Another benefit of having a hobby is that many are group activities – interests that can be shared with others, which leads to socialization. Sharing the joys of say, quilting, with a group of equally enthusiastic quilters tends to melt the stress right off and leave one feeling a positive sense of community and togetherness. In this way, a hobby can be a gateway out of loneliness for those who find it difficult to meet others, or simply don’t know where to start. These two factors alone lead to better overall mental wellbeing.
A hobby can also sharpen the mind. Studies show that an unused brain is more likely to succumb to decline. Hence the expression, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” Using cognitive function is a key factor of almost any hobby. The hobbyist finds themselves making choices, absorbing information, flexing the memory, and solving problems. Mental wellbeing can be a direct result of a well excercised mind. Participating in a hobby you enjoy is a great way to do just that.
Variety in what the mind is absorbing plays a part in it’s fine tuning, too. Think of it as a juggling act in your head. The juggler, if left with nothing to juggle, sees his ability slip away if he never practices. Meanwhile the juggler who spends time throwing bean-bags into the air and catching them, sees the basic skill maintained and can move on to practicing juggling other objects too. By bringing new items into his act, it could make simply juggling just bean-bags mundane. If your mind is actively balancing multiple hobbies of different sorts, and constantly challenged by new things to learn, it is more likely to maintain basic cognitive function over time.
Hobbies encapsulate the little things in life we choose to enjoy. We enrich our lives, share our knowledge with others, and live life to the full when we engage in activities that strengthen our mind and our hearts. January is National Hobby Month, a perfect time to consider the mental wellbeing having a hobby can provide. What will your new hobby be?