February 27, 2016

Why Having Hobbies is Good for Us.

ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser/Flickr

We are all subjected to so many “shoulds” in our lives.

Is there ever a time when there isn’t something we should be doing?

We should exercise more, do more yoga, meditate, be more mindful, be more involved in, or learn more about a number of different subjects.

You get the picture, right?  

That’s not even to mention what we should be doing for work or school.

All of these “shoulds” often leave us stressed out and ready to cry Uncle!

When we do give ourselves a break, it often comes in the form of fiddling with our infinite number of devices—checking-in or checking Facebook, Instagram, texts, or some other easy to click on app for a few minutes of relief from the things we should be doing.

Fiddling with devices has replaced, for many, the enjoyment of having a hobby. If you check online, there are varying definitions and opinions about what constitutes a hobby.

Generally hobbies are done for fun, usually take up substantial periods of time, and don’t necessarily have any actual redeeming qualities—except you enjoy doing whatever the hobby is. 

Hobbies aren’t done on the run.

They usually require attention and concentration.

Hobbies are different from interests. I’m interested in politics but it’s not a hobby just because I regularly campaign for the candidates of my choice. However, I might be interested in rock music and play the guitar as a hobby.

It’s almost like people are ashamed of having hobbies. So if asked they might say, I run, or I work out at the gym, or I do yoga. Those aren’t hobbies. Those are interests and self-improvement activities.

How often do you give yourself permission to do something for the sheer joy of doing it?

So, can hanging out in bars every evening for a couple of hours and drinking be considered a hobby? Well, from the standpoint of enjoyment and having no redeeming qualities, possibly. However the fact that the alcohol could endanger the drinker’s health and endanger others would—in my opinion— disqualify this activity as a hobby.

I have two hobbies that qualify because they are enjoyable to me, take up considerable time—and my personal qualifier—they do no harm. One has a redeeming quality and one doesn’t.

I cook from scratch and I binge watch British television shows.

I’m often surprised by how little people actually cook. I don’t mean heating up frozen dinners or dumping pre-packaged chopped vegetables into a pot of something. Look at the baskets people push around in the grocery store and that will tell you just how little people actually cook anything from start to finish.

Cooking from scratch is a “should to many people.

Recently a friend of mine, who is single with no children or even a pet, was complaining about the tasteless can of soup she had had for lunch. When I suggested that she make her own soup, she said, “But sometimes you don’t have time and you just want something fast.” Hmmm… what’s faster than heating up something you cooked, with the added advantage that it tastes good and you don’t have a can to throw away?

Cooking from scratch is a great stress reliever for me. I find chopping veggies—onions, celery, bell peppers, and carrots, meditation in action. I love stirring as well—the rhythm and motion of it are rather hypnotic and soothing. A weekend afternoon spent preparing several dishes that I can eat throughout the week is definitely not a “should” for me. Knowing that I have prepared something, having chosen the ingredients from the farmers market, and watching it turn into a delicious dish is pure unadulterated joy for me.

When I’ve cooked a delicious meal, I want to celebrate when I eat. So even though I live alone, I set my table—place mat, cutlery, cloth napkin in a napkin ring and all—so that the joy of cooking extends beyond the making, to the eating.

My other hobby—binge watching British TV shows—is done with no thought of any redeeming qualities. I love British television shows because I find them so much more cerebral than most American dramas. In my opinion they require more attention and concentration. My personal qualifier for binge watching is three or more episodes at a time. I’ve watched all 107 episodes of Midsomer Murders.

That’s 18 seasons.

Curling up on my sofa for a few hours, with a bowl of (not microwave) popcorn and a glass of lemonade (made from scratch), and my dog cuddled next to me is relaxing and joyful.

Oh, the “shoulds” sometimes try to finagle their way into my head. But I have become adept at keeping them at bay. I employ the mindfulness technique of being in the moment. I remain completely one pointed on the task at hand—which is enjoying what I’m doing at that given time.

Having a hobby isn’t something you “should” do, but finding a hobby might be something you want to try for the sheer fun if it.




Author: Gayle Fleming

Apprentice Editor: Jami C Wallace / Editor: Renée Picard

Image:  Nicki Varkevisser/Flickr 

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