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7 benefits of having a hobby



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: 



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! 

the packaging vs. the present phenomenon



I recently ordered a ton of toys with the hope of keeping my crazy little puppy Barkley entertained (and if anyone has any tips for keeping a puppy busy, let me know!). When the box arrived, Barkley was pleased with some of her new playthings, but she was obsessed with the big piece of cardboard they arrived in. (You can see the same thing happening in this old Mastercard commercial.) Babies and puppies tend to find packaging just as exciting (if not more so!) than the items they encase. And even as an adult I've experienced this—receiving a gift wrapped in a box or gift wrap that I liked even better than the gift itself. 

I call this the Packaging vs. Present Phenomenon, a situation very common in kids (and pups!) in which they appreciate the packaging more than the present. As we get older, it seems less and less common for us to be thrilled by the box a gift came in, mostly because we've become so trained to look past the outer wrapping to see what's inside. While watching Barkley play endlessly with a cardboard box while ignoring the new toys scattered around her, I realized there's a lot we can learn from this Packaging vs. Present Phenomenon...




1. Appreciate the simple things. 

The box and wrapping, such simple things, are what babies and puppies are drawn to when they receive a gift. They appreciate the basics—some colorful paper and a hearty slab of cardboard—and will happily play with just one item without even realizing there are other objects around them. We could learn a lot from their focused appreciation. With so much to see and do these days (just a little online time has me lengthening my wish list like crazy!), it's tough to remember how valuable each little simple thing is. Whether it's a neatly wrapped gift or simply a quiet moment alone, it's worthwhile to acknowledge (and enjoy!) life's little pleasures. 


2. Explore objects from another point of view. 

One of the cool things about watching a puppy or a baby with a box is seeing all of the silly things they'll do with it. It certainly never occurred to me to put a flap of the box in my mouth and chew on it, but Barkley sure seemed to enjoy nibbling on the cardboard corners. (Then again, I'm not a teething puppy so it's probably no surprise that this didn't occur to me...) When a puppy encounters something new, she explores it. Pushing it with her nose, biting it, and pawing at it. While I wouldn't recommend biting into newly discovered things (unless they're edible, of course!), there's something to be gained from really taking the time to look at something in a variety of different ways. 


3. Find value in what matters to you

Puppies don't care that a toy cost $10 while the box it came in was (relatively) free. All they care about is what grabs their attention and seems like fun. What they value isn't based on status symbols or the latest trends. They focus on what's important to them, right in that moment. If the box seems like more fun, the box has more value (regardless of how many times a human squeaks a new toy right in front of them). We, too, should value not what we're "supposed" to value, but what actually matters to us. We shouldn't be held back by what we should value; instead, we should be inspired by all that we could value. 


4. Use your imagination like a kid. 

Apparently one of the reasons little kids like boxes so much is that they are absolute wonderlands for their imaginations. For an adult, a box is just a box. But for a kid, a box can be anything—a castle, a dungeon, a boat! (I can't speak for a puppies imagination, but I'd like to believe that Barkley has some creative ideas for what exactly a box's purpose is.) The more we try to see things the way a kid would, the more we open ourselves up to new and more creative ways of thinking. In fact, I saw proof of this in this episode of Brain Games. The more we try to think like a kid, the more creative we get. And the more creative we are, the more exciting (and positive!) life becomes. 


5. Focus on the inner and the outer. 

Eventually, after playing with the box for some time, Barkley got around to investigating her new toys (some of which have been lifesavers for me!). While the box seemed to be a favorite, she also appreciated new toys to play with. Seeing how she reacted positively to both what was in a box and the actual box itself reminded me of how important it is to focus on both the inner and outer aspects of our lives. For example, it's essential to focus on creating a great relationship with yourself—and it's equally as important to create great relationships with others. We all tend to focus more on one than the other, but don't forget to spread the love to both the packaging and the present. 


Pretty funny how much I got from watching a little pup play with a cardboard box, huh? Perhaps it's just my overanalytical mind at work, but I'd like to think that the five lessons I wrote about above show how even the simplest things can have value, can teach us things, and can make us appreciate not only the moments we experience, but the lessons those moments come packaged in.  

do what you love: turning a passion into a career



Doing what you love is so much easier said than done. If asked, "Would you like to spend your life doing what you love to do?" most people would probably respond with a resounding "YES!" But how many of us are actually doing it? How many of us are even trying to do it? Most of us aren't and there's a good reason why we're not: it's hard. Some people are lucky enough to fall into a great opportunity in which their passion can be their career, but for most of us, creating a career based on what we love to do takes hard work and a lot of emotional, financial, and mental effort. 

About 15 months ago, I left my full-time job in Marketing to pursue my passion: writing (specifically, writing for Positively Present). It took a long time for me to get to the point where I was ready to leave the security of my job, but once I took the leap, I was thrilled. Finally I was able to spend my days as I'd always dreamed I would: writing and researching and enjoying life! For a while, that's what it was: exciting and inspiring, freeing and exhilarating. And then reality set in. Out of nowhere arrived the days of struggling to stay motivated, the daunting tasks of keeping track of taxes and tackling never-ending to-do lists. What had once filled with me absolute joy—writing—was now my job, and somehow that made it a lot less exciting. 

Pursuing my passion full-time wasn't exactly what I thought it would be—and it's so much more work than I had imagined!—but there are those moments when I am so blissfully happy doing what I love, what I feel inspired by, and those moments make every difficult task I have to conquer, every hour of stress and frustration, completely and entirely worth it. Even when it's hard, I'm spending my time doing what I love—and that's something I wish everyone could experience. Turning your passion into a career can be so rewarding, but it's not something most of us can do easily. It takes time, patience, effort, and just a little bit of luck. Here's my advice for getting started: 



We often think we love something, but it's not until you're doing it every single day do you realize how you really feel about something. Whatever you're passionate about, make sure you love it so much that you couldn't live without it. Make sure that you could do it every day—live, breathe, and sleep it—before you consider turning it into a career. I've learned that making a career out of a passion changes the way you see it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's something to be aware of. Be certain that what you're passionate about it's a passing phase and ask yourself these questions: Could I do this for the rest of my life? Would I do this every day even if no one paid me to do it? When I'm doing it, do I feel alive and excited? Do I want to do it as much as I can, whenever I can? 



When it comes to turning your passion into a career, you've got to know what you're getting into. Do as much research as you can: on the industry you're interested in, on the taxes you'll be responsible for, on issues like health care and additional financial needs. All of that stuff might sound boring to you (I know how you feel!), but when you start doing your research, you'll see just how much goes into pursuing a passion full-time. If, after doing all of your research, you feel overwhelmed and exhausted, you're not alone. But if, after all that, you still want to go after what you love, you know that it's something that really matters to you. Research helps to put it all in perspective and it's a great way to find out how committed you truly are to what you're passionate about.  



Passionate people, that is. The more you connect with those who are passion about what they do, the more insight and inspiration you'll get. You don't even have to connect with people in your future industry (though that's always a nice bonus!). Just find people who really, truly love what they do and ask them how they got to where they are. Ask for advice. Ask for help. Even if you're launching into a solo passion, like writing, you still need the help of other people to get you where you want to go. Don't be afraid to reach out to people (even those you don't know!) and seek inspiration. The more you surround yourself with passionate people, those who love what they do, the more motivated and inspired you'll be. 



At some point, you have to put the passion on paper—and the best way to get started is by mapping out a route. Imagine it as a journey from Point A to Point B. Here you are the beginning, still doing something you don't love and longing to get to a place where you can do what you're passionate about. How are you going to get to Point B, that place where you can do what you love as a career? You have to create a plan. Break everything down into small steps—your financial needs and goals, your business ideas and dreams—and set a timeline for everything. You may find yourself deviating from the plan, but as long a you keep moving in the direction of your ultimate goal, you will inevitably arrive there. Just keep going


Doing what you love to do sounds like a dream come true, but it's actually a lot of hard work. Before going for it, be sure you really, really want it because there will be a lot of days that are tough and being certain about what you want is one of the best ways to conquer the down days. Even though it's hard, most of us would be so much happier if we spent our days doing what we love to do. So if you don't love what you're doing, find a way to start doing what you love.