Many families will be on holiday at some point in March for the annual school break. If you are not able to travel, this is the perfect opportunity for you to take time with your hobby or, to work with your child or teen on their hobby. It is also a perfect time, if you or a family member does not have a hobby, to develop one. I already have several hobbies – in fact, it’s possible that I have too many hobbies. There is nothing I like better than developing new hobbies and interests but, since I am trying to cut back on that, I am going to help you find a hobby and live vicariously.
There are excellent evidence-based health related reasons to have a hobby. These bear reviewing since so many of us are bringing work home these days, which isn’t necessarily good for our health, and it would be better to spend some of your time doing something healthier. Let’s consider three of the most important health benefits of a hobby.
First, a physical hobby, such as hiking or gardening, has the obvious health benefits of physical exercise. Even if the activity is not exactly exercise, focusing on something enjoyable can relieve stress. A cardiovascular workout releases endorphins, but so does a pleasurable activity. Doing something that is consistently pleasurable is one of the best kinds of behavioural activation, which can prevent both depression and anxiety and lower stress. This blog that I wrote several months ago provides more information about behavioural activation and its benefits.
A second way that a hobby can be of benefit to your health is by reducing social isolation. For children and youth, the benefits of sports by providing friendship are known to prevent bullying and to reduce anxiety and depression. There are also group hobbies for those who don’t enjoy sports, such as Lego Clubs and Origami Clubs. Adults can also participate in these same activities, some of which can be quite inexpensive. Public libraries and community centres are good places to find out where you can participate in a hobby in a group.
Finally, hobbies provide a boost to our creativity and confidence. Engaging in a creative activity has been shown to help people be more creative in all settings and not just in the endeavor related to your hobby. Every workplace needs workers who can approach problems innovatively and a hobby can prepare you to do exactly that. As for confidence, whenever you are engaged in your hobby, you develop new knowledge and sometimes skills. If you have chosen a hobby with low stress – probably not a highly competitive sport – you learn about trying something new in a relaxed environment. When you’re not having to manage stress while learning something new, you can acquire knowledge about how you develop other skills. You can also learn something about your optimal learning environment.
For a child or youth, a hobby that they love can lead to a career. For an adult, a hobby can lead you to a second career. It can also be your way of giving back. Shortly after my mother’s death, I received a letter from the rector of the small Anglican Church in Wakefield, Quebec where she had lived. I learned from that letter that every week, winter or summer, my mother had brought over several pairs of mittens. My mother had knitted mittens all her life and everyone treasured her beautiful handknit mittens. My daughter, who had given the eulogy at her funeral had spoken about all the mittens she had received from her Nana over the years. But the rector of the church in Wakefield told me that they must have received over a thousand pairs of mittens from my mother. My mother always said that she loved knitting mittens, that it was fun she could have while still being useful. She also ensured warm hands for everyone she loved and virtually an entire community.
My mother’s hobby was her legacy.