For years, Positively Present was my hobby. I spent hours and hours on the weekends drafting posts, searching for images, and envisioning how I wanted the site to look. When I took my hobby and made it my full-time job, there was a hole of sorts in my life. While I still worked on Positively Present on the weekends, it was now in the category of "doing work" instead of "just for fun." Even though I still consider it a pleasurable experience, and a great emotional release, it's no longer a hobby.
Though I left my job over a year ago, only recently did I realize that something was missing. I can still find myself in a state of flow (check out Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's concept of "flow") when I'm working on Positively Present, but there's definitely something different about it now. And it wasn't until I started a new hobby—completely by accident!—that I realized how much I'd needed to partake in something simply for the sake of enjoyment.
It started when I came across Nicole's Classes and decided to take a course to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator, a program I'd had on my computer for months but had never even opened. As soon as I started the class, I was instantly in love with the online format, seemingly geared exactly toward the things I wanted to learn. I'd never considered myself an artist—I'm more Ed Emberly than Vincent Van Gogh—but I'd always loved to draw (just ask those I used to work with who saw see me constantly doodling daily on my to-do lists!).
After quite a few classes, illustrating has become own of my favorite things to do. It's my new-found hobby. Hobbies are often something we think of as something for people who have tons of free time, but there are many, many benefits to having a hobby. Even if you think you don't have the time, having a hobby is worth making time for because of the many emotional, mental, and physical benefits, many of which I've experienced first hand recently. Here are some of the reasons why having a hobby can be a wonderful thing:
BENEFITS OF HAVING A HOBBY
1. Hobbies encourage taking a break. Hobbies offer an opportunity to take a break—but a break with a purpose. If you're like me, you might like to feel productive while you're engaging in an activity and a hobby gives you that. You are doing something while still having fun. Hobbies are great ways to take a break from your busy life while still having a sense of purpose.
2. Hobbies promote eustress. Eustress is that positive kind of stress, the kind that makes you feel excited about what you're doing and about life. Hobbies, I've found, are one of the greatest ways to access that kind of stress. When you're doing something you love—something you don't have to do for any other reason other than the fact that you love it—you feel a rush of excitement and joy.
3. Hobbies offer a new challenge. Hobbies break up routine sand challenge you in new ways, ways that are different from work, ways that are positive. The great thing about picking up a new hobby is that it provides an excellent outlet for challenging yourself without the negative stress that comes from a work-related challenge. The new challenge can also open your mind to new ways of seeing the world.
4. Hobbies unite you with others. Even if you engage in a solo activity, like illustrating, you're exposing yourself to a new world of people, people who find the same thing enjoyable that you do. Though I don't talk much about illustrating in the "real world," online I find myself connecting with all kinds of people who are passionate about what I too feel excited about.
5. Hobbies provide an outlet for stress. Adding another activity to your to-do list might seem like a way to create more stress, but I've found that engaging in a new hobby actually provides a great outlet for releasing stress. By focusing on a non-work-related task, you're giving your mind something else to focus on. And when you really get in the flow, all of your worries and stresses seem to fade away.
6. Hobbies promote staying present. If you really love what you're doing, you tend to get in the flow or zone and really, truly focus on the moment. When I'm working on an illustration, hours can magically fly by because I'm so intensely focused on what I'm doing. Instead of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, I'm completely and undeniably in the present.
7. Hobbies have physical health benefits. Research has found that engaging in enjoyable activities during down time were associated with lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, and body mass index. Engaging in these activities also correlated to higher levels of positive psychosocial states and lower levels of depression and negative affect. Hobbies are good for your mind and your body.
Finding a new hobby isn't always easy. You can't just force yourself to like something; it has to come naturally. If you don't already have something you're interested in (or might be interested in), try new things. Sign up for a class that sounds interesting or ask your friends what kinds of hobbies they enjoy doing. The key to finding a new hobby—and falling in love with it—is keeping an open mind and being willing to give new things a try. You never know what might become your next favorite past-time!