a picture of a woman taking a picture representing photography as a hobby

Why you need to focus on hobbies and recreation

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When people want to invest in themselves, there are several key areas to focus on. I put them into an easily digestible pyramid here:

A pyramid showing the 9 different areas of self-investment

While you can focus on any area of the pyramid, and while all the items influence each other, the items at the bottom of the pyramid more heavily influence items at the top.

While hobbies and recreation are at the top of the pyramid, there is a lot to say about the positive results in investing in hobbies. I am living those positive results right now.

The importance of hobbies

Einstein once said, “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” I believe that if you replace “goal” with “hobby” the saying remains true. A hobby is something that is pleasurable, and it is also something that:

  • encourages continual learning
  • will provide evidence of skills and ability to achieve goals
  • helps slow the mind and provide clarity
  • provides an escape from difficult feels and situations
  • brings feelings of flow, contentment and happiness

Hobbies, identity and relationships

Current societal ideals encourage you to focus on other people. You are told you are nobody until somebody loves you. Being single is stigmatized. It is the perfect recipe for depression and stress. When you focus on others, you lose focus on yourself and you are more likely to do things that abandon who you are in order to please others and keep them around.

This could look like allowing an abusive person to stay in your life because you do not want to be alone. Or it could look like feeling lost and that you cannot live without someone, so you stay no matter how miserable you are.

While connections are important and people can make a big impact in our lives, you can live without someone. Hobbies help you see this by giving a meaning to life outside of connections. They give you an outlet to focus on when relationships aren’t going so great. So instead of feeling lost without someone and staring at your phone, hoping they will text, you focus your energies on something you enjoy.

Then, if they text, you aren’t an anxious mess and have more clarity to respond with your goals in minds.

Related: Why You Need Unshakable Identity and Meaning

Hobbies, money and career

Working in tech, layoffs are pretty common. In 10+ years I have been laid off twice. My hobbies saved me both times.

Had I not had hobbies, and if I defined myself by my work, I would have been crushed when I was laid off. Losing income is stressful enough, sitting around bored all day thinking about it makes it even tougher.

But since I have hobbies outside of work, I managed both layoffs the best I could. In fact, HR said I was handling the layoff “with grace.” The grace was in knowing that I do not define myself by my career and that while the situation is horrible, I will be OK.

While laid off, I applied for jobs and relied on my hobbies to keep my mind focused. I went to the gym and focus on weightlifting and I ended up finding writing groups on zoom that helped me feel connected.

Related: The Importance of Investing in Your Career and Mission

Hobbies, physical and mental health

Hobbies stop ruminating thoughts and keep your mind active and focused on items you enjoy, even when one area of your life isn’t going so well. So if someone doesn’t call, you focus on your hobby instead of staring at the phone. If you unexpectedly lose your job, you have somewhere to focus your energy while looking for a new one.

Hobbies also benefit your physical health and I recommend everyone have a mentally and physically impactful hobby. Mine are weightlifting for physical health and writing for mental health. Physical hobbies help you connect to your body, stay active and mobile and reduce physical aliments that result from sedentary lifestyles.

Related: Investing in Your Mental Health Brings High Returns

Hobbies are self-care

Integrating something you enjoy into your life is a worthwhile investment. You want to make sure your hobbies are something that helps you relax and go into flow. This could be putting puzzles together, reading, going for walks, etc. and does not need to include anything fancy.

When you start your hobby, know that you do not need to monetize it or make money from it. When I started making lotions it was for me and my health. Multiple people tried to get me to market and sell the lotion. I don’t find joy in selling it so I chose not to turn my hobby into a business and I am happy with that.

Photo by Joice Kelly

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