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Hobbies and our health

October 3, 2011

Have you ever referred to your interests or passions as “just a hobby”? I certainly have. I mean, that’s all they are, right? I don’t make any money off of my poorly-sewn irreverent cross stitch, nor have I ever received a grade on my running. They’re just things I enjoy doing. They just make me happy, right?

Well…

As it turns out hobbies have been put to the test in scientific studies, and in addition to making us happy hobbies improve our physical, emotional, spiritual, and social health.

 

Physical Benefits:  In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences hobbies pursued earlier in adulthood were found to be a protective factor against Alzheimer’s disease. Of the three broad categories of hobbies studied, passive (watching TV, etc.) intellectual (woodworking, crossword puzzles), and physical (walking, swimming), the intellectual activities seemed to be the most protective against Alzheimer’s, whereas the passive activities “may even be a risk factor”. Spending time on a favorite hobby also reduces blood pressure, feelings of fatigue, cortisol levels, and even body mass index.

Emotional and Spiritual Benefits: Hobbies reduce stress. I don’t have a hard time taking time out for myself, but I have so many friends who do, and for them having a hobby is a nice reason to “have some me time”- it’s me time for a reason!  For those of us who aren’t stressed (…anyone?…) avocations can provide us with eustress, a good stress which also may be a protective factor against depression. Along with reducing stress hobbies can give us a “deeper meaning” to our lives. When we devote our time to something we enjoy we escape stress and are therefore more able to connect to our still selves, encouraging clarity and focus.

Social Benefits: It’s easy to feel lonely even when we’re surrounded by coworkers, family members, and acquaintances. Even if we really like these people I think that there’s something really special about spending time with like-minded people. I spend a lot of time at my yoga studio, and am frequently overwhelmed by the sense of community there. I don’t necessarily know the names of the people next to me, but I do feel much attached to them all, and enjoy their company as individuals. Having hobbies presents us with opportunities to meet new, interesting people who already share an interest with us. What better way to meet new friends?

Hobbies may become more important to us at different times in our lives. Sometimes we find ourselves feeling particularly stressed and needing our hobbies to keep us focused and happy, other times we may be in a situation where we have more time on our hands than we know what to do with and a hobby can help to break up the day. Of course sometimes we have more time than we’re used to having because of a medical condition, and at times those conditions can make pursuing our passions very difficult, but, because of all of the reasons we’ve been talking about, I would imagine that the hard times in life might be the times our hobbies can help us most.

I know that it’s easy to think of hobbies as just hobbies, but of course they’re so much more than that. Hobbies are great because we enjoy them and they make us who we are- passion is so important, but hobbies also give us a sense of identity and belonging, protect us from illness, and give us opportunities for pleasure, stress reduction, positive goal-setting, and relaxation… now where’s my hoop?

Sarah Beth Rebholz is an optometric technician at CraftOptics. She would love to talk with you about how CraftOptics telescopes can work with your prescription to help you see your hobby clearly and comfortably.

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