Did you know having a hobby from collecting Tarot cards to bird watching can have as powerful effect at removing stress as meditation? We recently wrote about how pet ownership boosts happiness and wellbeing. However, we’re aware that owning a pet may not be for everybody due to personal preferences or circumstances. So if having an animal companion isn’t for you, what can you do to experience the same kind of benefits pet owners enjoy? The answer is simple: get a hobby.
Hobbies have long been advocated by medical professionals as a way to relieve stress and boost our creativity. They also contribute to our overall appreciation of life. As clinical psychologist Dr. Ellen Kenner explains: “Happiness is a long lasting enduring enjoyment of life, it is ‘being in love with living’. Some important values are a productive career, romance, friendship – and hobbies.”
As well as enhancing our creativity, studies have shown that having a hobby can have a similar stress-reducing effect as meditation. Engaging in a hobby you like leads to the release of hormones in the brain associated with reward, satisfaction, and happiness; dopamine and oxytocin are just two examples. Concentrating on something that is not your everyday work – whether it’s painting, gardening, DIY, sewing or learning the Tarot cards, makes you feel relaxed and therefore happier.
Professor Howard Tinsley of Southern Illinois University conducted a 15 year study into the psychological benefits of having a hobby interviewing 4,000 people. Across all groups from school students to 70 year old widows the results were the same. “People who were more active in leisure activities reported greater satisfaction of life; they scored higher on standardized tests about satisfaction,” Tinsley says.
Such also people appear to function better in society. David Schlenoff, a psychologist for the Baltimore County Public Schools, studies the psychology of hobbies and collecting. His own hobby is collecting and restoring antique cars and motorcycles. “As a psychologist, for me to help someone I work with, I need to be as well balanced as I can be,” he says. “To do the best I can for my family, I need to be relaxed, I need to be centered. If hobbies provide that much-needed centering and relaxation, then you’re more available to the people you love and work with.”
But hobbies can play an important role when it comes to our soul path. Our readers are often asked by clients for help in either discovering or re-connecting to their soul path or a career that truly fulfils them. Strangely enough, the hobbies we are drawn to often contain important clues as to our true purpose. If you’re feeling adrift in a job you no longer enjoy, reviving a much loved pastime from your youth or trying out a new one may in fact lead to a breakthrough in determining your next career move.
Hobbies can also connect us with those who share our interests but even if your hobby is merely a way for you to connect to a place of peace and creativity within you, it will bring you an increased satisfaction and enjoyment of life. The best thing of all – the list of hobbies is endless and you can try out as many as you wish until you find the one or perhaps several (there’s no limit after all!) that truly make time stop when you are doing them.
The message is simple: if you want a happier life – take time out to play!
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