For many people, if you ask how they spend their spare time, they will offer answers like spending time with family, having social time with friends, or shopping.
While these activities may be healthy and add to happiness, they aren’t really ways to develop our unique personal interests or do activities we most enjoy. But hobbies are!
Feel Good About How You Spend Your Time
Your days are likely filled with a long list of obligations and to-dos that you might not even choose, if you had a choice. Whether it is commuting to your job or the work itself, shopping for groceries or school supplies, attending family events and professional presentations, or even just cleaning and cooking, you find yourself “on” most of the time. It’s no wonder most of us look for ways to turn off the faucet of life once in a while, in the form of cable TV, having a few beers or browsing around on the internet.
While it could be argued that watching TV and chatting on Facebook really are hobbies, and they might be quite enjoyable, these are the kinds of “passive” activities that you don’t actually “do.” And experts know there is real value in also making time for activities that contribute to your personal development and physical skills—in other words, hobbies that are good for your health.
Having a hobby or two that helps you produce something, perform in some way, or learn to improve stimulates your brain in the centers that keep it youthful, energized and content. This can mean calm tranquility for some people, invigorating exploration for others, or even rising to challenges for others still.
For hobbies that help you feel great about how you spend your spare time, look to these few key ingredients:
For many, fitness activities become a hobby because of the benefits they produce. When you can see your muscle definition, feel your endurance improve, or reach your healthy body weight, you feel successful, and success breeds enthusiasm. That enthusiasm helps you form a habit, or craving, for the activities that bring you those results.
Other hobbies along this line are those that produce “products” – such as drawing, painting, knitting or writing poetry. Note that the criteria for a healthy hobby need not be that it helps you be in better physical shape. Your sense of satisfaction, and ability to focus or be calm, are also positive results from more sedentary hobbies.
It’s easy to understand how some people become “addicted” to hobbies that require them to compete, whether against others or their own personal bests. Runners and golfers like to measure their performances by times and scores. People who take a ballet class for a hobby will eventually learn to do a pirouette, and then strive for a double pirouette. Hobbies that show your progress are an excellent choice for those who thrive on putting their skills to the test.
Performance hobbies are healthiest when they don’t take competition too far, past the point of social enjoyment. Unless you are a pro golfer or a track star, your high score or slower time should not be a stressor as much as inspiration for your next time out. And while some people truly enjoy a bit of healthy competition, the point of a hobby is to add to your self-care and pleasure in life, not to belittle yourself (or others!) for not measuring up.
In many ways, all healthy hobbies are learning hobbies—from knitting to yoga to gardening, regularly performing your hobby and producing the results will help you learn as time goes on. But typically learning as part of your hobby will bring you a distinct mental ability. Even a physical hobby like studying martial arts requires you to learn and memorize forms.
Quiet solo hobbies like reading books and watching films can be excellent learning hobbies, as you spend your time absorbing the art and entertainment provided by others. Doing puzzles is a prime example of a hobby that helps sharpen your brain and focus your mind. Crossword or Sudoku are popular choices, and jigsaw puzzles are beneficial too—as a bonus, you can do a jigsaw puzzle in a social group, or as an ongoing family activity. Challenging card games like bridge, or board games like Scrabble, make for fine learning hobbies.
And if you want to relax and watch some television in your spare time, you could find yourself making a hobby of playing along with TV game shows like Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy!