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Creatively yours: Finding the perfect hobby

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There’s a great article by Tara Parker-Pope that ran in the New York Times on the science behind hobbies and choosing a hobby. The long and the short of it: it’s enriching for your mental and emotional and physical health. And January is National Hobby Month!

An article from the Mental Health Extension of Utah State University goes into some additional detail as well. Having a hobby has been shown to:

Reduce Stress: “…one study showed approximately 75% of participants’ cortisol levels (one of the most widely studied hormonal markers of stress) were lowered after making art. Don’t consider yourself to be an artistic person? That’s okay! This study also showed that prior experience wasn’t needed to reduce stress.”

Enhanced Well-Being: “Participants felt a higher positive affect or mood and a sense of flourishing after days where they engaged in a creative activity.”

Improved Social Connection: “…decreases in depression and anxiety. While there are many mental health benefits related to hobbies on your own, group or ‘team’ hobbies have also been shown to provide important opportunities for social connection, friendship and support. Research also shows that adults who regularly participate in some kind of team sport are less likely to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress.”

Improved Mental Health: “Hobbies that include physical activity have been linked to many health benefits including reduced stress, reduced blood pressure and a lower heart rate. But if you take physical activity outside, there are many additional positive benefits. Experts agree that spending as little as 10 minutes in nature can lead to improved mood, focus and overall wellbeing.” (How Hobbies Improve Mental Health | USU)

Some choose to leverage their hobby into something bigger. You’ve discovered you enjoy hand painting flowerpots and bird baths, and you can sell them at your local farmers market and make some serious cash on the weekends? Why not! It’s a silly example, but you get the idea – it’s important to diversify your income, especially in a climate like we live in today, and it’s equally important to truly enjoy what you do.

While we fully support those rock stars (#entrepreneurlife), that’s not the point of a hobby. Ultimately, your hobby is for you and you alone. You don’t have anyone to impress. You don’t have to be the next Michelangelo or a prize-winning knitter. This is time for you to decompress and enjoy yourself.

What are some ideas?

In the age of the internet, the world’s our oyster when we want to start a hobby. A simple Google search pulls up many different listicles: “100+ Hobbies for You to Dive Into In the New Year.” Some ideas:

Jewelry making

Candle making

Wood working

Cooking/baking

Scrapbooking

Painting

Sewing/Knitting/Crocheting

Birdwatching

Photography

Hiking

Where to start? Look for classes or community groups organized through your local libraries (more on that here – great article from Medium.com), community centers or Cooperative Extensions (like Cornell Cooperative Extension here in New York).

Speaking from personal experience, my local library has a community writing group that meets at regular times throughout the year – and there are occasional workshops for a variety of different topics scheduled throughout the year. Organizations like 4-H (4-H.org) often are great resources as well. I remember in high school both of my sisters taking a quilting course through our local chapter. You can take photography classes through a local community college.

And – although with the aim of sustainability and “getting back to basics” we want to step away from electronics – once again, there is the internet. There are millions of possibilities at your fingertips. Different tutorials and help videos can walk you through the beginning stages of countless projects, hobbies and new skills. From Master Class to good ‘ol YouTube, there are plenty of resources available.

Lastly, sometimes the best resource is just to dive into things with someone who’s “been there, done that.” Interested in watching local birds? Hit the trails with your birdwatching grandfather and let him show you the ropes. Ask your aunt for a crash course on knitting. Never underestimate the experience and expertise that’s just a question and conversation away.

Everyone’s hobbies look different. No matter what you decide to dive into, it’s important to not take it too seriously. Have fun!

by Andrew Haman

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