More than 60 percent of Americans say their hobbies are very or extremely important to them, according to a Gallup poll.
And it’s easy to understand why—besides providing a fun escape from everyday life, your recreational pursuits can have a positive impact on you in a variety of ways.
Boost your well-being
You may think of hobbies merely as ways to pass some time, but they can also have a significant impact on your overall wellness. While the physical benefits of frequently participating in a sport can be obvious—strengthening your muscles and cardiovascular endurance, to name a few—even less strenuous pastimes, such as crocheting, gardening, and playing an instrument, can have a positive effect. In addition to lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, research has found that replacing just thirty minutes of sitting a day with a light physical activity can better your life expectancy.
Improve your mood
A hobby can be a great way to put a smile on your face and distract you from life’s demands. In fact, studies show that people who pursue a hobby are less likely to experience stress and depression and more apt to feel happy and relaxed. For instance, Patrick Sullivan, a retired art teacher living in Glen Falls, New York, finds painting to be a considerable mood and health booster. He enjoys using his brushes and paints to depict his family’s and friends’ favorite places on canvas. “I feel so blessed to have such a positive and relaxing pastime,” he says. “I love what I do and am so very appreciative to be able to preserve these treasured places through art.” So if you’re feeling a little low, find or engage in a hobby you can take joy in; many doctors even prescribe doing so as a holistic intervention to help patients with their emotional health.
Exercise your brain
If you prefer a challenge, you might enjoy tackling puzzles like Wordle or Sudoku. Problem-solving activities can be fun and stimulating, especially if you compete against friends and family. The buzz that often comes with completing them can be incredibly rewarding in itself, and it’s been shown that adults who regularly work on word and number puzzles tend to have sharper memories and a lower risk of developing dementia. That said, however, you don’t have to enjoy puzzles to better your brain; any hobby that keeps your mind active, like cooking, golf, writing, or refinishing furniture, can allow you to stay mentally agile.
Birds of a feather flock together—the same goes for hobbyists who share a passion. Just about any hobby can open the door for new friendships, whether you’re convening with birders on a nature trail, chatting with fellow readers in a book club, or mingling with wine enthusiasts on a vineyard tour. Such connections provide the support needed to navigate much of life’s challenges, and people who have satisfying relationships even tend to be healthier and live longer.
A new hobby can help you expand your horizons and push yourself in new and exciting ways. If you adore sampling new cuisines, for example, consider booking a trip to eat amazing food; you could savor lobster rolls in Maine, sugary beignets in Louisiana, or fiery chilis in Texas. Are you looking to build certain skills or tackle a longstanding anxiety? Target activities that will make it easy to do so: volunteering is an excellent way to develop teamwork and better your community, while indoor rock climbing can allow you to confront a fear of heights.
Make extra money
It’s not a big reach to believe that developing a new hobby could help you start a novel career, which could provide a stress-relieving dose of financial security. For instance, Sullivan now has a small business, Sullivan Studios and Painted Memories, through which he creates custom paintings for his customers. And he’s not alone in wanting to find fulfilling work postretirement; nearly two-thirds of Americans hope to open a small business when they reach that age. Finding a hobby that can provide an income is a great way to do so. Many can easily translate into a viable business—some that work well for retirees include pet care, arts and crafts, and photography.
As you can see, there are many reasons to devote yourself to a hobby besides the sheer enjoyment it can bring you. And if you don’t know what pastime you’d like to pursue, consider what your friends and family are doing; chances are you’ll enjoy those activities too.