Hobbies are more important than you might think…

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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You get up, go to work, come home, make dinner and watch television. Maybe you went to the gym, helped the kids with homework, tidied the house or met a friend for a coffee. But after a while every week, month and year blend into one another. It`s not only lacklustre, it can be psychologically unhealthy.

Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, notes that in the past two decades Americans have become less likely to engage in community activities such as parent teacher associations, bowling leagues and potlucks. The trend is not confined to America. Across much of the developed world people have fewer hobbies and social activities than a generation ago.

If you were to say that this is because we live busy lives you`d be partly right. We do live busy lives. With our smartphones, laptops and Wi-Fi we bring the office with us wherever we go, and it not unusual for colleagues or managers to contact us well after we leave work.

All this busyness is the reason we tell ourselves that we don`t have time for interests. Busyness is a badge of honour. It makes us feel important, valued and even virtuous we`re not frittering time away, we`re working! A far greater problem however is the illusion of busyness. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter takes up precious free time, as does answering emails. We answer far more letters in the form of emails than we ever did when we communicated by snail mail.

The illusion of busyness means we often feel overwhelmed, stressed and believe that we don`t have time for ourselves. However, taking and making me time is crucial to our mental and emotional well-being.

Having a hobby or interest outside of work is an excellent way to do something fun, learn a new skill or just get time out of the house away from domestic demands. However, many of us feel guilty claiming time for ourselves. You shouldn`t. Hobbies are good for you. Read on to find out why.

Hobbies can help structure your time

Hobbies create more time by encouraging efficiency. When we have nothing planned for the evening, we take much longer to complete tasks. If you have an evening class scheduled, you`ll be far quicker answering your emails, making dinner and folding the laundry.

Hobbies increase your social circle

If you take an evening class you`ll meet others who share your passion for art, gardening, cooking or learning languages. Making friends is not only enjoyable, hundreds of studies have found that having connections with others promotes happiness and mental health.

Hobbies make you a more rounded person

Hobbies add to your identity and increase your self-confidence and self-concept. You are not just an accountant, a programmer, a graphic designer or a personal assistant, you are a photographer, a cook, an artist, or a book lover as well.

Hobbies encourage active leisure

We all like to conk out in front of the television now and again, but staring at the screen is a passive activity. Active leisure is doing something,something that makes us feel invigorated.

Hobbies help beat stress

Let`s say you have had a bad day at work. You failed at a task, or your boss was critical of your work. When you get home, watching television may be a distraction, but it doesn`t deal with the real problem ,that of a damaged ego. Heading out to a painting class or German lesson is a far better salve for work stress because it reminds you that you are not your job and that you can always learn new skills when you put your mind to it.

Hobbies give you zest for life

If you spend a few hours a week doing something you love, it energises you. This energy spills over into other parts of your life, making you feel happier and healthier. That`s good for you, and good for your life!

Anne Sexton

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