Why It’s Great to Have a Hobby

Here are a few benefits of making time to pick up a hobby

It’s American culture to value productivity above most else. Filling schedules to the brim and working long, late hours elicits praise and respect, while carving out time just for fun or self-care isn’t viewed with as much admiration. It’s a career-over-everything mentality, and when we tie so much of our self-worth to our jobs, we tend to structure any free time around not what brings us joy, but what we could do to increase productivity even more. If this sounds familiar, you might have never pursued a hobby — whether for lack of time or not seeing its purpose. Too bad. It’s great to have a hobby.

Writer Jaya Saxena recently forgot the word “hobby.” While telling friends about her spouse’s new venture playing in a band, she used a roundabout way of describing a hobby, but forgot that a word already existed to describe it. Hobbies, sadly, have become more of a rare phenomenon.

For Many, Hobbies Are a Thing of the Past

“For many of us, expectations of an ‘always-on’ working life have made hobbies a thing of the past, relegated to mere memories of what we used to do in our free time,” Saxena wrote for The New York Times. “Worse still, many hobbies have morphed into the dreaded side hustle or as paths to career development, turning the things we ostensibly do for fun into … more work.”

It’s true. Admittedly, Next Avenue has run plenty of advice on turning hobbies into sources of income. It’s a popular way of bringing pleasure to work, and in theory it makes perfect sense to monetize your skills. There’s nothing inherently wrong with merging work and hobbies, but what do we lose when we see our hobbies through a work lens? The beauty of a hobby is its low-stress, low-pressure, low-stakes nature. Maybe some hobbies should stay sacred — for enjoyment only.

“Hobbies can also remind you that work isn’t everything,” Saxena wrote.

Have a Hobby for Leisure, Not Work

Saxena highlighted a 2009 study that found a focus on leisure activities “correlated with lower blood pressure, lower levels of depression and stress, and overall better psychological and physical functioning.” Hobbies are a way to recover from stress, too, and give you the opportunity not only to regroup but to bring your best self back to work.

If you’re hung up on taking too much time away from work and productivity, know that studies have also shown that time spent on hobbies can improve job performance through improved creative problem solving and helping others on the job.

Hobby Inspiration

Feeling stumped about what you’d like to adopt as a hobby? Just think about times you’ve thought or said, “I’ve always wanted to try that.”

Maybe it’s taking up photography, baking or camping. Looking back to your childhood interests and passions is another great place to start, as Next Avenue has encouraged in the past.

“If the inevitable ‘What do I do with the rest of my life?’ question has you perplexed, you may benefit from revisiting who you were as a child and what you loved to do,” Saxena wrote. “In those dusty storage boxes filled with your childhood keepsakes — report cards, photos, artwork, news clippings, coloring books, prize ribbons, toys and other artifacts — you may find clues for your tomorrow.”

Next Avenue also has published guides and examples of people exploring birdwatching, attending the opera, writing workshops, quilting, storytelling, tango and gardening.

One key final note about having a hobby: Perfection is not the goal. Hobbies are about trying new things and learning what you like (and don’t like) — not just being the best.

Grace Birnstengel, writer at Next Avenue in a black shirt and pink background.
By Grace Birnstengel
Grace Birnstengel is a reporter, writer and editor for Next Avenue where she focuses on America's diverse experiences of aging. She recently concluded an in-depth series on America's first generation aging with HIV/AIDS.

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