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Get a Hobby. Seriously!
by Christopher W. Crank, PharmD, MS, BCPS; ICHP Executive Vice President
The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives for the worse. The long-standing mitigation measures have made many people feel isolated, bored, depressed, and stressed. It has not been an easy time to live. However, one positive theme that I have heard many times is that people have used the downtime to develop a new skill or hobby. I know people who have learned new languages, gotten in better shape, or learned crafting hobbies requiring creativity such as woodworking, knitting, or quilting. Hobbies have always been an important part of well-being and resilience efforts; however, they are even more crucial now to well-being.
Hobbies come in all shapes and sizes. They can involve physical activity or mental activity. They can be something in which we are already proficient or something in which we are novices. I know that many may say they do not have time for a hobby. I get it. The pandemic has increased the workload on most people working in healthcare. However, I would argue that this means the need to have a hobby is even greater. Edward Stanley, an English clergyman in the 1800s, recognized the importance of physical activity. He said, “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” To put it another way, if you do not make time for your physical and mental wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness. We often make time for the things that are important to us. Sometimes the best way to ensure you make time for your hobby is to schedule it. Schedule the time in your calendar. Sign up for a class where you need to be there to participate at a specific time. Find a hobby that your family can enjoy like cycling so you can exercise, relax, and spend time with your family. In addition, you can join a group or club related to your hobby. These are just some ways that can motivate you to prioritize your hobby.
Hobbies have been associated with benefits such as:
- Improved work performance (engagement, creativity, and problem solving)
- Improved physical health (lower BP, lower cortisol, improved weight)
- Improved mental health and mindfulness
- Lower rates of burnout
- Higher levels of resilience
- Reduced stress
- Better sleep
- Increased social interactions
- Expanded personal network
How do you choose a hobby? A hobby should be something that you enjoy. Even better, it should be something that you can get lost in. For me, these are biking and woodworking. I can always count on these activities to draw me in. I can detach and forget about work and any problems I am having while doing them.
It is also important to assess what your needs are. Do you need more physical activity or mental activity? Do you need a little of both, like I do? There are a multitude of websites that suggest different options. As fun as lounging around watching movies or browsing on your computers may be, most experts recommend that your hobby not involve screentime.
Another option is to think of something that you really enjoyed when you were a kid. I loved biking as a kid, but as I got older, I stopped cycling. Within the last year, I got back into cycling because I needed more exercise and because I remembered how much I love it.
What have you always wanted to try but have not taken the time to learn? Take a class so that you can learn about the hobby you are interested in. The advantage of a class is that it is scheduled time that you can dedicate. Many experts recommend treating hobbies like we do any other goal and scheduling time to work on them.
It is also important to remember that it is okay to start small and try a variety of different hobbies. It may take you a few tries before you find the hobby or hobbies that fit you best.