When we’re young, there’s lots of opportunity for developing and pursuing built-in hobbies. Our parents sign us up for swimming lessons or soccer practice. Our best friend in middle school goes to science camp one summer so we sign up, too. Our junior year of high school the choir teacher gives extra credit for those who attend a musical each semester. In college we can’t walk five feet through the courtyard in our dorm or the inside of the union without bumping into a table advertising volunteer opportunities with a political party or the Homecoming planning committee. When we leave these fairly insulated bubbles and begin working full-time, then get married, perhaps have children, the opportunities (or even reminders?) to pursue hobbies are virtually gone.
But it’s still so important to make time for hobbies and interests. It’s easy to work all day, come home and plant yourself in front of the TV. I get it, and I’ve been there. But I’ve also found that nurturing my interests and even making goals for the things I do in my spare time has been really rewarding. Much more so than losing two hours to Sex and the City reruns or a reality TV marathon (though there’s a time and place for that, too).
Here are my top 8 Reasons Why Hobbies are Important:
- You can meet people. Moving to a new city? Newly single? Pursue a hobby that requires you to come into contact with other people: team sports, a sewing class at a local fabric store, pottery making through community education.
- Hobbies build self-esteem. If you dislike your job or your unhappy in your relationship or you simply feel like you’ve lost your way in life, developing a hobby can be a way to build yourself back up. Maybe you take up knitting or playing the piano and the small improvements you make week to week are enough to sustain you while you try to figure out the rest of your life. Sometimes hobbies give you one solid thing to feel good about.
- They’re a way to relieve stress. This is sort of related to Reason #2, but many hobbies provide stress relief simply because they’re an oasis from the rest of your life. You can forget about a bad meeting at work or a fight you had with your mother while you sing in your church choir or train for a 10k.
- Hobbies make you interesting. At a party, you can only talk about being an investment banker for so long before people’s eyes begin to glaze. But mention that you’ve traveled to 10 countries in South and Central America, and that you have an upcoming trip to Peru planned, and people want to hear more.
- Hobbies are a point of connection with other people. What you do for a living or where you’re from may give you common ground with a small, select portion of the population. But if you like gardening? Bowling? Rescuing neglected dogs? These are hobbies shared across a wide range of race, age, gender and economic groups.
- You can avoid boredom. I have zero scientific evidence of this but I really believe that boredom is responsible for a lot of society’s ills and people’s destructive behaviors. How many people come home and drink 4 or 5 beers every night simply because it’s something to do while they watch TV? What if 1 or 2 of those nights they were at a class learning to make stained glass or canning the produce from their garden instead?
- They keep you youthful. Maybe this isn’t on your mind yet, but establishing hobbies now (even if they change over the years) is a really healthy habit to form for your later years. The happiest seniors are the ones who lead active lifestyles and have social outlets. If you hit retirement and have never pursued interests outside of work, you may find yourself lost and struggling to fill your time with meaningful activities.
- Hobbies enrich your perspective. Remember that old public service announcement: “The more you know, the more you grow”? Yes, I’m channeling the late 80s here. Any opportunity to learn something new, to be challenged anew, is great for character-building and seeing the world through refreshed eyes.
What hobbies do you find rewarding? What hobbies do you want to pursue but haven’t gotten around to yet?