Why are hobbies important to our mental health?
Engaging in enjoyable activities is an accessible way to reduce depression and improve overall mood. That's because you will feel a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, and productiveness. Hobbies can take your mind off from a downward spiral of thoughts and emotions that will hinder your wellbeing. Although engaging in hobbies is not a "direct" way to "solve" your concerns, it can help you become more detached and become less emotionally impacted, which can help you can resolve your concerns with more clarity when you revisit them at a later time. Therefore, developing a hobby is also a form of a healthy coping mechanism.
Here are the 4 steps on how to create a hobby and learning to stick to it!
1. Explore your childhood aspirations
Children have diverse aspirations and imaginations of who they want to be when they become an adult. Some want to be a model, a fashion designer, an athlete, a doctor, a journalist, or a content creator! So now, re-think of your own childhood aspirations - what did you want to be? What did you want to do? If you can think of a couple on the top of your head, then these can be your potential hobbies! For me, I have dreamed to become a music composer (but I being a psychotherapist is also my dream job too!), however, I did not nurture myself to pursue a musical career. And so, I do music transcription and violin playing as a hobby to fulfill my musical urges. When you touch base with your past and your childhood, you will easily see what you have always loved to do. Then, pick one or two of the activities you have thought of.
2. Set up the environment and materials
Once you have determined your hobby, find a place and the materials needed for your hobbies. When you have invested in some money, time, and space into your hobby, you're more inclined to stick to it. For example, I set up my music stand, music scores, and violin in one area where my materials are easily accessible. To strengthen your commitment, try to find a partner or a friend who can join you in your hobby!
3. Create a flexible schedule
While hobbies should be more flexible than a "work" schedule, it's good to have some consistency and routine in your hobbies so that practicing them will become more automatic. The routine like a guideline to keep you on track, but it is not the end of the world if you changed up your leisure routine. Don't be too strict on the schedule because you will feel discouraged when you happen to miss one of the days. Just find some time slots that work best in your week! A flexible routine schedule looks like this: you practice crocheting 2-3 times a week for around 2 hours in the evenings.
4. a) Give it some patience
This is the most important part because people often drop a hobby when it becomes difficult or if progress is slow. Understand that you may be a bit clumsy and frustrated when engaging in any new activity. That's totally normal and it's okay! I understand that you may want to be better at it more quickly and feel a bit silly that it's taking you a while to become proficient. It takes some time to be familiar with any activity, but you will get the hang of it eventually. Remember that your hobby is about the journey, not the destination.
4. b) Record your progress (Optional)
For some people, writing down progress is a chore. If you're one of them, feel free to skip this section! But if you love taking progress notes and keeping track, then I would recommend finding a method to record your progress. Every hobby is different and there is no one cookie cutter way to track progress. However, progress notes should include some form of "before" and "after". You can take a video or a picture, you can write down a diary, or you can use a chart. For me, I take a before and after photos of my physique when to see if my body is more fit than it was before. Find a convenient way to record your progress.
To summarize, just pick what you like, get the stuff ready, make it consistent, and be patient with it! You will feel good about yourself when you have a list of hobbies and you can even use it to cope when you need to!
About The Author
Jasmine Tsang is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) under the College of Registered Psychotherapist Ontario (CRPO) and the founder of Reflections Therapy. She specializes in providing counselling services for people facing challenges in their adulthood such as relationships, self-esteem issues, school & career stressors, anxiety, and depression. For more information about Jasmine, click here to read her bio.