Reading Time: 3 minutes

Recently, I facilitated a workshop and I was astonished with the audience as they expressed that they did not engage in any specific hobby in order to help them manage their daily stressors. Their argument was that they did not have enough time or had too much work to engage in these things. Hence, I decided to write up this blog in order to promote healthy hobbies, which should be integral in our lives in order to help us manage our own emotions and facilitate the expression of creativity.

Research has linked personal hobbies to many measures of physical and mental well-being, ranging from helping the individual gain a sense of belonging to a particular group to feeling increasingly relaxed due to a reduction in blood pressure. Sadly, there is a growing consensus that hobbies are ‘a waste of time’ and that ‘time would be better spent doing something productive which will earn one some sort of material gain’.

We have 24 hours during a day, and if we can’t control how to schedule them, then most probably someone else will! Therefore, the first step is to schedule time for one’s interests. There is no one specific process which will work. Ultimately, it’s simply a matter of experimenting with what works for you, some people like to take one hour a day, and some people like dedicating their whole weekend to their hobbies.

Looking back at childhood interests is usually a good way at trying to narrow down what type of hobby one would like to engage in, if one can include others in their hobbies it would also increase the frequency of the activity! Researchers also recommend reflecting on one’s own disposition in choosing a hobby. For example, individuals who are verbal thinkers might probably enjoy reading whilst individuals who think in visual terms will probably enjoy something creative such as art or photography. In this respect, it’s important to be genuine and allow yourself to experience different things. To experience certain things, it takes some courage to apply for a short class or workshop and any other activities.

Hobbies can provide a space in which one can rest and get out of the ‘rut’ which sometimes we find ourselves in when working hard on a specific task. To allow the mind to wander occasionally can have beneficial outcomes, in which this allows the mind to rest and think a bit differently, which might ultimately help in being productive in your work tasks. This is what is known as the ‘incubation effect’ in which an individual solves a task-oriented problem while actually not performing that particular task.

To continue adding onto the concept of getting stuck in a ‘rut’, hobbies provide a sense of accomplishment, which can act as a short reward which can in turn help fuel motivation on long complicated tasks such as work or studying. Allowing oneself to do something different also helps strengthen one’s cognitive flexibility which is the ability to think about different concepts simultaneously.

Despite the benefits stated earlier, people still feel like there is no use for hobbies or individuals simply have no time for them. Perhaps, we should all start to create a culture to increase awareness on the benefits of hobbies and their implications on our mental wellbeing.

References:
Ellwood, S., Pallier, P., Snyder, & A., Gallate, J.(2009).The Incubation Effect: Hatching a Solution? Creativity Research Journal 21(1),6-14.

Newman, D.B., Tay, L. & Diener, E.(2014). Leisure and Subjective Well-Being: A Model of Psychological Mechanisms as Mediating Factors. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15, 555–578

Karl Grech is a counsellor. He offers counselling to both individuals and couples within Willingness. He can be contacted on karl@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.