What benefits do hobbies offer? And how do you know what the right hobby is for you? We investigate.
How things have changed.
Only a few decades ago, we were all spending our evenings on our hobbies. It was common for couples to go dancing, for friends to go bowling, and for families to, you know, do things together.
These days, the TV has taken over.
The average individual spends four hours and five minutes a day watching the television according to the NYTimes. (READ: Why You Need To Quit TV For A A Year). Because of TV and other idle leisures, social activities are in decline, and hobbites have lost their appeal.
Hold your hand up with me if you are guilty of letting your hobbies slip away.
For the last few years I’ve found I have less time to spend on my hobbies.
That’s not quite accurate.
I haven’t actually had less time. I’ve simply felt too busy. And that’s an important difference. (Read: Do You Feel Busy All The Time?)
The truth is, most people do have time for hobbies, we simply need to be more aware of the hours in the day. (Proof: How many hours have you spent either watching TV or playing video games over the past week? Thought so).
In her book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, Brigit Schulte reveals how we all take pride in being busy, which is why we trick ourselves into thinking we have no time.
In reality, we do have time. And we need t invest a good chunk of that time into hobbies. Why? Because there are so many benefits of hobbies.
Take a look.
8 Benefits Of Hobbies
- Hobbies give us something else to focus on
Hobbies give us something to focus on that is not related to work.
For instance, if you play bowling for a hobby you can set a goal to beat your personal best score. That goal motivates you, gives you something to strive for that is stress-free (unlike career goals) and takes your mind off of your concerns.
To take advantage of this, choose a hobby with inherent goals and one that is not related to work. Bowling, for instance, gives us a personal best score to try and beat. That helps take the mind off work.
2: Hobbies make you use your time more efficiently
Another benefit of hobbies is that they help you structure your time.
Science tells us that when we give ourselves more time to finish work, we intentionally use all that time even if we don’t need to. In other words, give yourself eight hours to tie a knot and you will take eight hours tying a know.
Sounds confusing, right?
Naval historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson, the author of 60 books, came up with Parkinson’s Law of Time. This law states that the amount of time taken to complete a piece of work will expand dependent on the amount of time we give to it. In other words, if you allow yourself 100 hours to complete a project that could be done in 10 minutes, you will intentionally take 100 hours to get it done.
How does this relate to hobbies?
Hobbies force us to divide time into chunks. If we are learning the lines of a play, for instance, we will probably allocate some time to learning those lines. That then limits the time we have for other activities. This limited time forces us to work efficiently.
Schedule hobbies and we will force ourselves to work more efficiently on other things.
One way to take advantage of this is to choose a hobby that will demand a certain amount of time. Running a marathon, for instance. Marathons demand a certain amount of training. Taking those hours away from work means we have to be more efficient when working
3: Hobbies exercise the brain
Another benefit of hobbies is that they exercise the brain in a different way.
Many people get stuck in a repetitive routine, doing the same thing continually. Workaholics, for instance, are always working, and most forms of work only include a set number of mental activities. Sure, a career in finance tests our math and business skills, but there are many areas of the brain that are not used at all.
A hobby can compliment your work by exercising your brain in different ways.
Here’s how to take advantage of this:
- If you work in a logical, order-based role, find a hobby that’s creative.
- If you’re a professional artist, find a hobby that’s more logic and order based.
- If you’re always working alone, find a social hobby.
- If you’re always with other people, find a hobby that provides you with alone time.
We should choose hobbies that compliment our current lifestyles. This will exercise our brains in new ways and teach us new skills.
To take advantage of this, we choose a hobby that requires cognitive skills we don’t currently use.
Poetry, for instance, can make us use language in a way we do not usually, and it also requires finding metaphors, using convergent and divergent thinking, and other skills Poetry is a great hobby for the brain.
Don’t think you can write? Let me prove you wrong. Read this guide to finding your creative brain by using meditation.
Hobbies like writing use the brain in different ways. They’re great mental exercises.
4: Get in the flow
One common pitfall that many people fall into (myself included) is that they spend too long being passive. They’re idly using Facebook or channel hopping, etc. This kind of activity increases self awareness and can lead to mental health problems like anxiety.
It is far healthier to focus on one activity and to truly get wrapped up in it. That way we stop thinking of ourselves as we are thoroughly absorbed in an activity.
We should choose hobbies that we can get fully wrapped-up in to the extent that we forget about our problems. For me, it’s running and yoga. Both exercises push me and make me want to improve myself (plus, science has proven that running is the best thing for preventing depression). When I’m doing either I get completely engrossed in them. They’re total chill-out fests.