January 2018

Invest in YOU! New Hobbies for the New Year

Author: Linda S. Hopkins

For most of us, January is a time of reflection and resolution, often centering around some negative behavior or habit we wish to change. But research shows that our good intentions often go towards paving a road to a certain undesirable destination. You know the saying…and it’s mostly because we fail to take action. (The success rate for New Year’s resolutions is about eight percent.)

But what if we could resolve to make our lives better without getting out the beat stick or committing to something that feels punishing? Could a new hobby be the answer?

A hobby, by definition, is an activity done for enjoyment. It can be anything from reading to playing a sport. It can challenge you, and you may have to work at it, but it should feel different from “work.” A hobby is something you don’t have to do for any reason other than the fact that you love doing it.

Research has found that engaging in enjoyable activities during down time is associated with lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, and body mass index. (How’s that for a health and fitness plan?) Engaging in a hobby also helps relieve stress and stave off depression. (Think of all the time and money you will save not sitting in your therapist’s office!)

Finding the time
“Down time? What down time?” you may ask. We often think of hobbies as something for people who have plenty of free time. But even if you think you don’t have the time, a hobby is worth making time for because of the many emotional, mental, and physical benefits.

Truthfully, you have the same amount of time as every other human on the planet, including the creative geniuses of the world, past and present (that’s 86,400 seconds every day, but who’s counting?). How you use that time is a matter of creating a realistic “spending” plan. Just as you do with your bank account, you may need to look at your budget, see where the leaks are, consider your priorities, and weigh the options. The question is, do you want to invest in yourself? When you think of it that way, making time for a hobby is a no-brainer. You may not become a concert pianist, a touring tennis pro, or a master gardener, but you can learn some new skills and find satisfaction in your progress along the way.

But just like those crazy resolutions, committing to a hobby requires a plan of action. If you have a fulltime job, three children, two dogs, a cat and a turtle, then taking up a time-intensive hobby such as golf may not make sense. But there are plenty of hobbies you can pursue that require a smaller time commitment yet reap big rewards. Carve out an hour a day or even a few hours a week for something that inspires and enlivens you, and don’t be surprised if some newfound energy and zest carries over into other areas of your life.

Choosing a hobby
Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to do or something you used to love that you’ve stopped doing. Consider whether you want to try your hobby solo, with a friend or with a group. Are you looking for something active and adventurous like a sport? Or are you thinking of something creative and relaxing like arts and crafts? Consider browsing a large arts and crafts store such as Hobby Lobby or Michael’s to see what catches your eye. Think drawing, painting, jewelry making, flower arranging, cake decorating and much more; ask about classes and workshops. Local organizations such as Lifelong Learning of Hilton Head Island, OSHER Lifelong Learning, the Island Rec Center, and the Women’s Association of Hilton Head Island are also rich resources for discovering new interests, as are neighborhood associations, senior organizations, and private clubs. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few ideas to spark your interest and some benefits you might expect:

Needle Arts: Researchers have found that needlework exercises both hemispheres of the brain and is helpful for maintaining or regaining motor skills, reducing stress levels, and warding off arthritis and Alzheimer’s.

Music: One of the biggest advantages for an adult who learns to play a musical instrument is stress reduction. Playing an instrument also activates several areas of the brain at once, helping keep your memory sharp and your joints flexible.

Dance: Dancing is a way for people of all ages, shapes and sizes to stay fit and have fun. Benefits range from improved strength, endurance, coordination and mental function to greater self-confidence and self-esteem.

Recreational Sports: Participation in a sport can grant everything from your recommended daily exercise, to a chance to socialize, to a renewed sense of goal-setting and competition, not to mention a place to blow off some steam and have fun.

Visual Arts: Most people agree that art-making is good for children, but being creative is good for adults, too. Benefits include relaxation, stress relief, sharper problem solving skills and much more.

Magic: Performing magic is a fun and entertaining hobby with benefits including improved dexterity, coordination and ranges of motion, enhanced social and presentation skills, and an increase in confidence.

Photography: Taking good photographs is an art that goes beyond a simple point and click. Therapeutic benefits can include motivation to get outside and connect with nature and a shift in perspective as you begin to find beauty in the world.

Gardening: Whether you want to enhance your landscape or grow your own vegetables, digging in the dirt provides an outlet for creativity and nurtures a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Games: Games such as bridge or mahjong offer intellectual and social stimulation. Like mental gymnastics, playing games involves strategy, deduction, concentration and visualization.

Cooking: Improving your culinary skills can potentially help you improve your health and lifestyle, save you money, and enhance your social status.

Writing: Writing (or playing with words) is a creative outlet for expression of thoughts and ideas that can help you clear your mind, recover memories, put life events in perspective and sort out emotions. It’s also a way to stretch your imagination, grow your vocabulary, and connect with others.

Languages: Learning a foreign language improves memory and increases your attention span. Bilingualism can open doors, benefit your career, and help you see the world and other people in a new light.

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