Other benefits of hobbies
Hobbies can help you to:
Find new challenges/ways to relax: “If you’re bored at work, you might try a hobby that provides a challenge. And, if you’re overstretched in your job, doing something more relaxing and calming in your spare time can provide some much-needed balance.”
Switch off from work: “With mobile working tools like laptops and mobiles, we’re overfilling our social hours with business tasks,” explains Emma: “this in turn overinflates the importance of our jobs in our lives. Work does need to be taken seriously but, once it dominates, it becomes harder and harder to see it in context, meaning natural challenges become major emergencies.”
Forget your worries: "It’s easier to switch off your worries and anxieties when you lose yourself in a hobby. Or you could choose a more energetic hobby where the exercise is an outlet for the kind of pent-up physical stress that occurs where you suffer fight/flight overdrive."
Enjoy a sense of achievement: Learning new things may give you a sense of achievement you won’t get at work. “Many jobs are relentless, meaning there is no moment of celebration or reward - but a challenging hobby can supply that," says Emma. “Workplace stress often creates huge dents in our self-esteem too, so we see ourselves as losers because we’re struggling with deadlines or tasks. A hobby can remind you of your ability to achieve and win, and therefore re-boot your ego.”
Make more friends: A more social hobby will mean you meet non-workplace friends, too. “Although it’s good to have colleagues you can discuss your job with, it’s also hugely beneficial to mix with people who see you more for who you are and less for what you do for a living."
How to find a hobby that's right for you
Emma recommends bearing the following in mind when choosing a new interest.
Do something you enjoy
You don’t need to be good at your hobby – you just need to enjoy it. “Modern pressures to ‘achieve’ make people shy of hobbies that they might not be good at, but there’s no need to produce trophies for universal admiration,” explains Emma; “so what if your pottery is wonky or your paintings unhang-able? It’s the absorption and the fun that count the most.”
What do you want out of it?
Do you rate relationships over solitude? Then try evening classes where you work with a group or other shared events.
Are you a secret performer? If so, amateur dramatics could be your thing.
Are you happier getting absorbed alone in long-term tasks? Try a website-based task like tracing your family history, or something technical like model-making or drawing.
Are you task-driven with a competitive streak? Then team sports might give you the buzz of a win that you miss out on during the working day.
It’s good to pick a hobby that doesn’t seem like your ‘thing’ initially. It could be you’re in a rut and that, by choosing more randomly, you could discover new sides to your personality.
Revisit an old interest
Try something that you were good at or enjoyed at school - art, cookery, woodwork or languages, for instance - but which you’ve dropped because you couldn’t make a career out of it. By tapping into this neglected talent, you might even find a future career-swap coming on.
Your brain needs a break sometimes. “When we’re busy, we place the brain under non-stop pressure, but a hobby allows it to either rest or enjoy a change,” explains Emma; “for this reason, consider a creative hobby like painting, writing or music if your job is very logical and procedural, or a more technical hobby if your job is creative. It will be an ideal way to ‘grow’ the neglected side of your brain.”
Additional support for older adults
If you're retired and looking for activities in your area, The University of the Third Age (or U3A as it's commonly known) is a great place to start. This UK-wide voluntary network offers a wide range of activities to stimulate body and mind, specifically aimed at people in, or approaching, their 'third age' - the phrase they use to describe the time after you stop working full time or raising a family and have more time to pursue new interests. Find out more about the U3A or use the interactive map to find a group near you.
A note about COVID-19
We know that due to the current circumstances, access to some of the activities mentioned here may be limited, or even off-limits at the moment, but it’s more important than ever for us to find ways to maintain our mojo! And there are still plenty of ways of going about it.
The U3A, for example, have embraced the regulations around COVID-19 and adapted meetings accordingly. They have also introduced support groups and webinars/chats that you may find helpful.
Elsewhere, many facilities, such as gyms, personal trainers, dance classes and other group activities have adapted to meet current guidelines with restricted numbers and/or outdoor or on-line sessions to enable people to participate safely and continue to enjoy the benefits that our hobbies bring to our lives.
Further reading and resources
Health and fitness benefits of gardening - AXA Health
Steps to becoming active your way - AXA Health
(Re)discover the joy pf cycling to boost your health and your feelgood - AXA Health
Mental health benefits of nature - AXA Health
Exercise and fitness hub - AXA Health
University of the third age (U3A) - Telephone 020 8466 6139