A month ago I wrote a blog on the 10 ways in which a hobby can improve your mental health when living with the impact of a serious illness or injury.
But after writing the blog, I thought of something I did not address in it. It was a question put to me by someone living with a neurological condition.
How do I find the right hobby for me?
Great question! You may not have a hobby or have found the right one for you. You could be busy with the routine of your health issue, work, family and/or life in general. Which is normal and happens to a lot of people.
But maybe you are at the stage that you like to find a hobby to give yourself a break from illness, family, work, whatever. Or you may want an activity just for yourself or to restore a sense of normality in your life.
So in this post I am going to continue the theme of how a hobby improves mental health by answering that question.
How do you find the right hobby for you?
First, a recap from the previous blog the 10 way in which hobbies improve your mental health and quality of life.
These 10 ways provide an insight into the criteria or questions you can ask yourself when selecting a new hobby. Not all may be a requirement for you. Nor are they all a requirement for a hobby.
1. You are interested in the hobby
The hobby has a decent chance of holding your attention and focus. This is particularly important if you are hoping for the hobby to provide a distraction from your symptoms for a time.
2. You can use existing skills which you value using
This can be a powerful reminder of your existing strengths, which we can sometimes forget about when we are in a difficult place. For example, I enjoy research because it allows me to use my brain in a way I value. A new hobby I picked up whilst seriously ill was genealogical research. Another advantage of that hobby was I wasn’t required to move too much, which was good because I couldn’t due to the illness.
3. You will be able to physically do the hobby or adapt your approach to it
Sometimes after a serious health issue, our bodies can permanently change and we may no longer be able to do previous activities or we must adapt how we do them. For example, a friend had a heart attack and due to having angina as a result, returning to their hobby of running was not possible. They chose a new hobby of photography as it would allow them to walk whilst taking photos.
4. The hobby can provide an opportunity to learn and get better
Learning a new skill or developing an existing skill further provides a sense of satisfaction and mastery, which contributes to improved mental health and quality of life.
5. There is an opportunity to achieve something
And do you value that kind of achievement? For example, knitting can result in a finished product like a scarf, hat, jumper or blanket that you can use or give as a gift to someone.
6. The hobby provides a sense of belonging
Does the hobby provide an opportunity to socialise with others in person? Or to connect virtually with people? Which do you prefer? As I said in the previous blog on hobbies, being with others fosters a sense of belonging, which can be very powerful as it reduces the isolation that can result from having a serious health issue.
However, you may want a hobby that allows you to be by yourself and that is ok too.
Sometimes this nature of belonging is looking after something or someone else, whether it be a child, plants, or a pet. Whatever it is, it depends on you to survive and flourish. The process of helping in this way can be very affirming of you and your abilities. This is powerful as often after the onset of a serious health issue, it is common to lose our sense of self-worth as we feel we cannot contribute or look after others as we used to.
7. Is the activity something you think you will enjoy doing?
When we enjoy something, we often relax. And relaxation reduces stress. A win-win all around.
8. What meaning does the hobby give you?
By ‘meaning’ I mean you value what the activity has to offer whatever that is, such as the activity itself, being with people, helping others, creating or collecting something, increasing your knowledge, playing a team game with others, just having fun or something else. Or maybe the hobby allows you to live a value of yours, something that is important to you. For example, baking could be expressing a value of creativity, or community if you share your bakes with others.
9. Does the hobby restore a sense of normality to your life?
A hobby can provide routine like ‘every Wednesday evening from April through March I go kayaking’ and this fosters a sense of normality.
10. Consider what you enjoyed doing in the past, what you are good at and passionate about
What we enjoyed doing in the past, and our existing strengths and passions can be the source for new hobbies. Even skills we use at work and our jobs can be used in a hobby.
Hobbies we had as a child may capture our interest again. Or we may adapt childhood interests to what we want to do now. For example, maybe you used to sew clothes but now you want to make quilts.
If you are skilled at organising events, many charities and local neighbourhood initiatives may require this skill. If you are an accountant, maybe you do the accounts for free for a local club or charity or bring that skill to a non-executive position of an organisation. You can channel a skill you use at work towards a cause you find meaningful.
If you are passionate about nature, keeping bees or letting a beekeeper keep hives in your garden, bird watching, or creating homes for hedgehogs in your garden can all become hobbies.
It might be possible to adapt your approach to previous hobbies so you can still enjoy them. For example, if you now have limited mobility and gardening was a favourite pastime, raised outdoor beds or potting and growing plants indoors could still allow you to enjoy the hobby.
Sometimes a hobby can grow out of another hobby. For example, a friend developed a passion for Word War I history whilst doing genealogical research. He has since contributed to his local council’s initiative to commemorate those from the area who fought and died in the war, and may even start leading tours of the battlefields in France.
So based on the 10 ways hobbies improve your mental health and quality of life, these 10 criteria and questions can be your starting point in finding new hobbies. Have fun trying out new activities in your search and when you find your hobby, share it here. I’d love to know what you choose and how you are finding it.
What’s it like for you?
Did you pick up any new hobbies as a result of your health issue? What influenced your choice? And how is it helping to improve your mental health and quality of life? Share below as your comment could help someone else.
If you are living with a chronic illness or the after effects of a serious illness, or are caring for someone who is and would like support to enhance your sense of emotional wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.
Pass it forward
Although this blog is written in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to share it with the world, share it using the icons below.
If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened and whether you have to, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more.
© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2017