Hobbies for Health & Happiness

Hmmm. What should I do today? How wonderful it is to have several things to choose from. I can’t imagine how my retirement would be without a hobby, or two, or three, to keep me active and fulfilled. I can’t stress enough the importance of finding something to do that fills your soul.

Why is having a hobby so important? It’s just common sense, really. Hobbies help you stay active; they give you a purpose in life, exercise your brain and body, widen your social circle, and create a sense of accomplishment. Time was a different commodity while we were working. Tasks and activities were production-based and focused on deadlines and quotas. Now we can focus on things that bring joy, no matter how many scarves we knit, steps we walk, books we read, or portraits we paint. It’s not about the numbers anymore…and you can’t measure personal fulfillment. You either have it or you don’t.

Stats Canada reports that 75% of retired Canadians spend about 3.5 hours a day engaging in active pursuits such as walking, exercising, socializing, volunteering, participating in sports, etc. The majority, 90%, also engage in passive leisure activities such as reading, watching TV and listening to music.

What are you doing to fill those 3.5 hours? There are so many hobbies to take up, that I can’t even begin to make a list. This is what really boggles me. What should I do? So many options!

I met Joan Nelson through another friend while playing mah-jong. At the time, she was working full-time, but it was obvious she had a love for, and a talent for, photography. In July of 2021, after working for 45 years, Joan retired. Photography has now moved up on her list of things to do.

“I have several hobbies, one of which is photography. I have dabbled in it off and on over the years. However, being retired provides an opportunity to really see the world. As a working person, I walked outside every day, but it was always just about the walk. Now I take more time to enjoy a leaf, a flower, or a landscape. How does the light catch the object—is there a pattern or colour that is unique? Those are things I am trying to see.”

Well said, Joan. And, I’d venture to say that while working, Joan’s mind was full of business while she took her daily walk. That’s just what happens, right? But now that we are retired, we can let our minds roam freely and really experience the beauty of what is right in front of us. I really appreciate the joy that a hobby brings. It gives me a sense of purpose and something to talk about!

“In my opinion, life should always be about more than work,” says Joan. “But when you are working and raising a family and maybe taking care of your parents, it feels like you just don’t have the time or the energy to find something you like to do. Retirement opens that door just a little wider. Everyone needs something that gets their adrenaline pumping, and a hobby can get those creative juices flowing. “

Maybe doctors should start prescribing a hobby to help lower blood pressure, strengthen bones, build muscles, and ease depression. Can you imagine? It would read something like this: Spend several hours each day doing something you enjoy, and after 10 days, if symptoms persist, try something new—don’t call your doctor. I’m not saying hobbies will ward off illness or disease, but having a hobby will boost your mental health, which we all know contributes to good physical health and stress-free living. And depending on the hobby, you may get more exercise. For example, I enjoy walking, but I need a reason to get out there. Geocaching is one hobby I’ve discovered since retirement, and it provides a reason to go out ad explore.

Joan has ticked off several of those boxes with her photography hobby. “My goals for retirement are to be physically active, exercise my brain, and be part of a community. Photography helps me meet those goals. Climbing hills and riverbanks or just walking a trail all require a certain amount of mobility. Composing the shot uses my brain, and I often find someone to chat with on my adventures. If I have a photo I want to share, I post it on Instagram. I love seeing other people’s photos posted. It gives me a glimpse at so many different locations that I likely will never see.”

Having a hobby gives you the excuse to learn something new, develop your skills and expand your horizons. And if you really get into something, you will discover many sidelines such as how to post photos on social media, create a website, set up a blog, or new techniques. You can go as far as you want, keeping your mind active, your spirits high and challenging yourself. My latest challenge was co-facilitating a geocaching workshop for 44 newcomer youth. Let me tell you, Joanne, Rachelle and I had our brains churning thinking of ways to explain geocaching to a large group of kids with limited English skills, outside in temperatures nearing 30 degrees. But it worked and everyone had fun, including us! What a sense of accomplishment!

According to an article by Ciara McCabe published last year in Neuroscience News, finding time for a hobby works because it affects the reward system in the brain. The article states, “When we take part in a hobby that we enjoy, chemical messengers in the brain (known as neurotransmitters) are released—such as dopamine, a chemical that helps us feel pleasure. These feel-good chemicals can then make us want to do the hobby again and feel more motivated to do so. ” Sure, that makes sense.

If you don’t have a hobby, it’s time to get one. Or, maybe add a new one to your repertoire. If you don’t know how to do that, ask yourself a few questions. What do you enjoy doing? When do you feel happy? If you relish peace and quiet, consider reading, gardening, or painting. Do you live for chaos? Lively places? Maybe you would enjoy a group sport. Do you have a sweet tooth? Or are you trying to lose weight? Take up baking or cooking healthy meals. If you love being in the outdoors, investigate hiking trails, nature camps, and bird watching. Games are also a great hobby and are easy to do for even a few minutes a day. Don’t limit yourself to one thing. Hobbies come in different categories—some need a fair amount of time; others can be done in short bits. Some require travel, others can be enjoyed from your favourite chair. Cost can also be a factor. And if you don’t like something, don’t worry! No one is making you do it. Find something else! I have a closet full of “Maybe I’ll like this some other day” hobbies.

“If you are at the stage where your work life is winding down, my suggestion, if you can afford it, is to take a few classes in a wide variety of things and see where that takes you,'” says Joan. “YouTube and Pinterest are great resources to explore. It always amazes me the creative things people are doing. Try different things—not all of them will appeal to you—but hopefully, you find something that makes you smile. “

And that’s the fun of retirement. There is time to explore! That’s my 3.5 hours for the day! See you next time!

Photos by Joan Nelson

Interesting Reads & Things

Why Is Having a Hobby Beneficial for Your Mental Health | Psychreg

Benefits of Hobbies: Improving Our Mental and Physical Well-Being (projectboldlife.com)

What are the 5 best hobbies for a health boost? (medicalnewstoday.com)

(3) What to Do in Retirement: 20 Activities that Will Enrich Your Life – YouTube

(3) Hobbies for seniors over 60 are better! – YouTube(3) BEST HOBBIES FOR EMPTY NESTERS – How to Find a Hobby after Retirement or after Your Kids Leave Home – YouTube

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