As children, we are encouraged to explore our wide range of interests from art to science and everything in between, not only for entertainment but also to discover our path in life. Time spent playing at recess or drawing isn’t seen as wasted, but rather encouraged as a form of expression. At some point during our school years, we slowly drift away from a plethora of hobbies and creative free time as we begin to focus on a few hobbies that can potentially turn into a career. For some this means turning their talent into a career, whether that is a sport, an instrument, or science. For others, this time period sadly involves trading in time spent on hobbies that encourage self-expression to focus on our studies and prepare for a career. As an adult this trend continues: we become so busy with our responsibilities that we lose time for the hobbies that brought us so much joy for a significant time of our lives.
Now, while the world is on pause due to the COVID-19 crisis, is the perfect moment to find the time to reconnect with your childhood hobbies. While Zoom happy hours and puzzles are tempting, why not use this time to reconnect with hobbies that brought the younger you so much joy? Whether your hobby is refreshing your piano skills or learning to skateboard again, the “I don’t have time” excuse no longer applies. Furthermore, there are scientifically proven benefits to picking up your old hobby. According to Dr. Gabriela Corá, “making time for enjoyable activities stimulates parts of the brain associated with creative and positive thinking. You become emotionally and intellectually more motivated.”
Here are three benefits that I recently noticed from reconnecting with my childhood hobbies:
Joy from natural exercise
In the first few weeks of quarantine, I missed my in-person workout classes, especially a spin class. I would book these classes a few days to a week in advance and plug them into my calendar. I often would squeeze in a spin class at 7 am twice a week before work, which felt rushed rather than therapeutic. While I enjoyed the classes and workout, the act of scheduling and the price tag made the workout feel like a chore.
Throughout my childhood and in college, I took tennis lessons and would often play with my siblings in our local park. Fortunately, I am currently quarantined in the suburbs of DC (and not our usual home in New York), which allows more space for social distancing including the local tennis court. I recently played a game of tennis and after an hour, I was not only out of breath but also happier and rejuvenated. In comparison to my typical workout routine, I found much more joy before, during, and after my workout including sore muscles for a few days. Playing sports and working out with others is not only a great way to connect with others but can naturally increase your endurance through encouragement to continue playing when you’re tired.
Nostalgic habits alleviate stress
As a kid, my family and I frequently went on evening walks in the neighborhood before or after dinner. Living in Manhattan, my typical routine after work is to meet friends for dinner, attend an industry event, or head home for an evening in. As part of my quarantine routine, I’ve implemented a daily walk with my significant other, which allows us time to connect away from a busy, full house, and get fresh air and a break from our screens. On a normal day in NYC, I walk over 10,000 steps; while my daily steps are lower today, the act of intentionally choosing to walk rather than rushing to the subway feels like a luxury. Walking might not be the most extreme or exciting hobby, but it’s important to remember that according to Wikipedia a hobby is “a regular activity done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time, not professionally and not for pay.”
Mindfulness through creative outlets
On career day in second grade, I chose to dress up as Georgia O’Keeffe, an artist recognized as the Mother of American modernism. I don’t recall planning to become an artist but looking back, art was always a part of my day. I would spend hours submerged in my art projects; in high school I took graphic design, followed by a photography course in college. I still love art and stay connected to design through my work on the business-side of branding; however, I can’t remember the last time I flexed my artistic muscle outside of editing photos and decorating my apartment.
In the early days of quarantine, I decided to start drawing a palm tree from a photo I took in Hawaii. I was nervous at first and expected that I would end up throwing it away later that day. But within minutes, I was entranced by the act of sketching again. I expected this to feel like a pressure-filled project for work, but instead, it felt as if I were 10 years old again without a worry in the world. I continued for a few hours until I sketched so much that my wrist began to hurt.
According to Carol Kauffman, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, “when you’re really engaged in a hobby you love, you lose your sense of time and enter what’s called a flow state, and that restores your mind and energy. In a flow state, you are completely submerged in an experience, requiring a high level of concentration.” While my recent sketch isn’t impressive enough to share publicly, the act of sketching created a flow state, which was more relaxing for me than many meditation apps. In addition, according to Dr. Gabriela Corá, “being in that heightened state of concentration raises the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain—chemicals like endorphins, norepinephrine, and dopamine—that keep you focused and interested in what you’re doing and that energize you.”
As Elizabeth Gilbert states in her book, Big Magic, “One of the oldest and most generous tricks that the universe plays on human beings is to bury strange jewels within us all, and then stand back to see if we can ever find them.” Life will return to normal soon along with endless work emails, mundane responsibilities, and overpriced workout classes, find time now to bring your joy-filled hobbies back into your routine so that you can fully appreciate their benefits.
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Photo: Alice Dietrich via Unsplash