Spending your free time wisely can make you happier, healthier, and more successful!
What are your hobbies?
The last time someone asked you was likely during a job interview. This is not a guide to help you answer that question, although the advice we give you may indirectly help you with that one day.
If the hobby question leaves you in a state of panic, first of all, breathe. Relax – this is meant to be fun! In fact, that’s what this is all about – we are bringing the hobby back to basics. Back to its original conception as an enjoyable activity that you can do outside of work. No more, no less.
It just so happens that pursuing your passions and interests also has a knock-on positive effect on your personal and professional life. So why wouldn’t you want a hobby? The problem for many of us is that we feel that we just don’t have the time to indulge in our pastimes. Not when there’s already the constant juggle of work, family, friends, and other commitments.
But we are here to convince you that you need a hobby – a few of them preferably. And, just like everything else that matters in your life, it’s all about finding the right balance, and prioritizing what’s important to you.
All work and no play
As a writer – or even just a human living in the world today – I sometimes fantasize about locking myself away in secluded locations to avoid distraction. A cabin in the woods? Sign me up! A Prairie Style oceanfront home? Hell yeah! A secluded hotel in the mountains? Take my money!
But then I remember what happened to Jack Nicolson’s writer character in The Shining and that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Or a crazy, homicidal boy.
Luckily for my loved ones, I’ve never worked myself to quite those extremes! But I have, at certain points in my life, found myself and my life being taken over by work. And you’ve probably felt the same, especially in this age of remote work, where the 9-5 has become infinite, and work-life boundaries get blurrier every day.
Is work taking over your life?
It might not always be that you are working 24/7 (although that can often be the case). Maybe after you clock off you can’t stop thinking about your job – you mull over all the decisions you made that day and ponder the tasks you need to do tomorrow. If you’re unlucky, you dream about work, and wake up more stressed than when you went to bed! Perhaps it’s not even as easily definable as these examples, but you just feel like you never have time for yourself anymore.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that productivity hacks are not always fun and games. Getting organized and motivated is a serious business, and takes hard work and dedication. But, this particular “hack” literally is – fun and games! Yes, despite what hustle culture has been telling us for years, things we enjoy can e good for us and – get this – increase our productivity. Imagine that!
So, if reading happens to be among your hobbies, you can start right now and learn how to avoid becoming stressed and overwhelmed at work by making time in your life to indulge in your outside interests!
Pursue your passions, plural!
Passion (noun): a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept
While there is some discussion over what makes a passion and what makes an interest, as someone interested in/passionate about Etymology, I decided that the current Merriam-Webster definition was sufficient enough to use the terms interchangeably here. Being persnickety takes all the fun out of things, and quite frankly, there’s not one of my hobbies that I`m prepared to suffer over. The whole point of having a hobby is that you should derive pleasure from it. Yes, there are many other benefits to having several pastimes, but the main reason should be enjoyment. As a former reluctant violinist and unwilling athlete, I can inform you that nothing takes the fun out of an activity like being forced to partake in it!
Spending time on activities that are not attached to work can help you feel happier and more satisfied with your life. If you fill your days with work and other commitments what will happen when those things are gone? We’ve all heard about those recently retired finding themselves at a loose end. And there’s a Jack Nicholson movie to underline this point, too (You guessed it, another one of my interests!).
The great thing about hobbies is that they can be pursued solo, or with others, but if you’re looking to enhance your social life, they are a great way to meet people and “find your tribe”. Whether it’s a local sports team, jamming with your band, or your local comic-con, there’s something special about coming together with others who share your passion!
Indulging in your interests can also help to increase your confidence – by practicing something regularly you naturally get better, and perhaps even become a master of it! While that doesn’t have to be your end goal (the key is enjoyment, remember), being good at something is great for building self-esteem.
If you’re one of the many people who took up a new hobby during the pandemic to fill those long days at home, you’ll already know that having a choice of activities to do means you’ll rarely be bored. While boredom is widely thought of to be a good thing, knowing how to deal with the feeling when it arises is where the magic lies. Knowing how to entertain oneself is considered a top life skill, with great 20th century thinkers like Susan Sontag and Bertrand Russell singing its praises, as well as 21st-century voices who bring technology into the equation, like Jenny Odell in How To Do Nothing.
Apart from the obvious benefits of physical activities, the combined effects of being generally happier, having a wider social circle, and being less prone to boredom, all combine to have an overall positive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.
Just a pastime – or time well spent?
Hustle culture would have you believe that spending time on anything other than work is a waste. Notorious workaholics like Elon Musk and Tim Cook wear their workaholism like badges of honor, but, quite frankly, sending 800 emails a day and neglecting to bathe seem like behaviors terrifyingly close to the precipice of insanity. Let’s hope neither of those two will be checking into the Overlook Hotel any time soon…
Besides, something they don’t know –but some other successful entrepreneurs do– is that hobbies can be extremely beneficial to your work and productivity! Would Warren Buffet be where he is today without his ukelele jams, I wonder? Well, perhaps not, since practicing hobbies – and playing a musical instrument in particular – can help to keep your brain sharp. By learning and indulging in interests old and new, you are increasing knowledge and skills as well as expanding neural pathways in your brain. It’s also likely that your hobbies will push you to challenge yourself, and even lead to you taking on greater challenges in your work life, too.
If you indulge in physical activities, the extra boost in your cardiovascular health is linked to improved cognition and mental performance, while creative pursuits are linked to improved performance in the workplace and increased resilience to work-related stress.
Creative hobbies are also more likely to induce the much-coveted flow state – that feeling of being completely immersed in an activity where you seem to lose track of time. In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. S. Ausim Azizi, chairman of Neurology at Temple School of Medicine talked about the magic that takes place during these periods:
“When you’re really engaged in a hobby you love, you lose your sense of time and enter what’s called a flow state, and that restores your mind and energy.”
Make it happen!
You may be reading this with a flutter of excitement, excited to get back to a neglected pastime, or raring to get started on something you’ve always dreamed of doing. Don’t let that spark fade! The best way to ensure that you follow through on your newfound enthusiasm is to make time for those leisure pursuits. But really make the time. Schedule it into your day, week, or monthly planner. Schedule Freedom sessions in advance so you don’t waste that hour you set aside for knitting scrolling Pinterest boards of other people’s knitting projects.
Joining a group is not only good for the social aspect but because it holds you accountable. Your friends at choir practice will miss you if you don’t show up. You’ll be letting the team down if you miss the soccer practice.
If you’re reading these and drawing a blank on what hobby you might want to take up, take a look at our guide on How To Get Inspired, listen to our podcast with Catherine Price on the importance of fun, or read about how some of our Freedom community make time for play and indulge their hobbies!
Once you’ve decided what you want to make more space for in your life, all that’s left to do is go forth and enjoy it. Remember, the most important thing is that you have a good time!