What gets scheduled gets done. And researchers have discovered the importance of making time for hobbies in order to improve our physical self-care quotient.
Summertime brings with it vacation and leisure time, the perfect time to learn a new hobby or spend time doing something you love. This month is all about how hobbies can help your self-care quotient. If you’re not convinced you need self-care, take the free assessment at the bottom of the page.
Practice for Survival?
“Today and tomorrow, you’ll have class time to research activities in and around Zion National Park,” I announced to the class.
“What kinds of activities?” one student asked.
“Any kind of activity which helps you improve your mental, academic, artistic, physical, or spiritual health,” I said.
“So, if we find a gaming group or something that wouldn’t count?” another joked.
I laughed. “Find something you could only do in that area. Remember, the ecosystem looks a lot different than around here.”
I walked around the room as the students busied themselves with the iPad, curious to see what they would find. “You can also include activities we already have equipment or instructors for,” I reminded them.
“I’m done with my list,” a student announced seconds later.
“May I see it?”
I read from his list. “Watercolor painting, mountain biking, and canyoneering.”
“Canyoneering?” another student asked. “What’s that?”
“You put on a harness and go down cliffs into narrow canyons!” he explained. He brought up a picture on the iPad and held it up for the rest of the students to see.
Students gathered around and exclaimed over the photos.
“I looks like a lot of you have an interest in canyoneering,” I said. “We’ll need to find out how much it costs and make sure it fits in our budget for outdoor school. The rest of you find some outfitting businesses and make a list of phone numbers for me.”
“No way Imma gonna throw myself over a cliff!” one of the students exclaimed.
“We won’t force anyone to participate,” I reminded him.
“Good. Maybe I’ll just go along and take photos of everyone else being all crazy.”
I laughed. “Just get me a list of businesses and phone numbers before class ends and I’ll call after work.”
Canyoneering Costs Money
The next day I came back with the news. “I found an outfitter willing to take our group,” I said. “Unfortunately, it will cost a lot more than our budgeted amount per activity.”
“Can we pay some of our own money?” the instigator of the idea wanted to know.
“You could,” I paused, “or you could help me do a Go-Fund-Me campaign to raise money.” I knew only a few of the students would have money, and I wanted to turn it into a lesson on social media.
They agreed to let me film them making appeals for sponsorship and we started our campaign. Within five days we’d raised enough money for every student who wanted to ‘throw themselves off a cliff’ to participate.
My students don’t come from homes where anyone has hobbies. If their grandmother, mother, or aunties weave rugs, they do it to support their families. Fathers don’t just do silverwork in their spare time, the beautiful jewelry they create keeps food on the table.
Students might turn some of the activities we do during outdoor school into leisure time activities, though. Things like watercolor painting, hiking, or mountain bike riding. But I doubted if anyone would turn canyoneering into a serious pastime.
But even a one-off project-based activity had the potential to help them improve their physical self-care quotient. According to an article on Adventist Health Care’s website, “Physical activity helps to stretch and tone muscles, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, burn fat, balance blood sugar, and reduce stress.”
Hobbies Aren’t Just for the Young or the Wealthy
A hobby, or as Robert Stebbins calls it—a leisure time activity—doesn’t have to cost money or take up a lot of time. Searching for sea glass if you live near the ocean or challenging yourself to find as many four-leaf clovers as you can in a set amount of time count as hobbies. So does dumpster diving.
Hobbies include acts of imagination—whether we draw or search for objects we can use in other ways. According to Girija Kaimal, an art therapist, professor, and art therapy researcher, “This act of imagination is actually an act of survival. It is preparing us to imagine possibilities and hopefully survive those possibilities.”
This act of engaging the imagination through hobbies not only has the potential for helping us survive the stresses of life, but for surviving serious illnesses, too.
Researchers in Japan have studied the relationship between breast cancer survival rates and other factors. Their research showed a positive relationship between a breast cancer patient’s participation in hobbies and her survival rates. The more hobbies a woman had, the higher her survival rate.
A research project published in Gerontology highlights the importance of leisure time activities throughout our life span. “Thus, successful aging should be seen as a lifelong process that is to a certain extent modifiable through participating in leisure activities.”
As we age, leisure-time activities gain importance to our overall health and well-being. A Japanese study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed a relationship between quality of life and having a hobby for older Japanese citizens.
We need hobbies not only for stress relief and mental acuity, we need them for quality of life, survival, and longevity.
Improve Your Physical Self-Care Quotient with a Hobby
If you decide to make pie-eating a hobby, it might not do much for your physical self-care quotient. Making pies falls into a different category. Searching for recipes, gathering ingredients, mixing, rolling the dough, and creating a masterpiece for others to enjoy could fall into the artistic hobby category. And creative endeavors can lower our cortisol levels, which improves our physical self-care.
If you haven’t made participating in hobbies an integral part of your life, these hacks will help you get started on the road to improving your physical self-care quotient.
1. Take a Tally
All this talk of the importance of hobbies for physical health, well-being, and longevity might make you feel stressed. Especially if you already feel overwhelmed with everything you have in your life right now.
Consider making a list of everything you do outside of work. Once you have your list, write down the approximate amount of time you spend doing each of those things. Evaluate each item. Does it need to be done? Can someone else do it (or at least assist)?
Write a plus next to everything that adds to your well-being. Draw a minus sign next to everything that you consider a time waster but do anyway. Mindlessly scrolling through news feeds falls into that category for me.
Tally up the time you would free up from your list. Even 15 minutes of saved time will give you an opportunity to explore a hobby on a regular basis. Fifteen minutes of guitar practice will work just as well as fifty minutes. And your fingers will thank you if you’re just starting out.
2. Categorize Your Interests
Once you know how much leisure time you have, you’ll want ideas. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and write ‘physical’ on one side and ‘creative’ on the other. Brainstorm ideas for each category. Some activities might fall into both categories, for example, dance or wildlife photography.
Include things you already enjoy as well as things that make you curious. You can check out this post for ideas.
Estimate how much time each activity would take. Can you do it in a short amount of time? Or will it require an entire day, extensive planning, or instruction? Grab your calendar and commit to spending time daily, weekly, and monthly enjoying a hobby. If you don’t schedule in the time, you’ll discover you don’t have the time.
3. Change it Up
If you already enjoy a hobby, explore ways to change it up and keep the experience fresh. Instead of painting from a photo in the comfort of your home, try painting in plein air. Choose a new route for your evening walk or enroll your dog in an agility class.
Ditch the mixers, choppers, and gadgets in your kitchen and try cooking a meal outside over a campfire. Who knows, you may discover you’d make a good cowboy.
4. Active Collection
Choose at least one active hobby you enjoy. Things like birding, beachcombing, geocaching, and mushroom hunting all require some level of activity. Movement lubricates our joints and provides a mental self-care benefit, as well. Collecting things, whether birds to add to your life-list or shells to decorate your house feeds our need for healthy competition.
I’ve made a hobby out of collecting race medals and race t-shirts. This means I must train and participate in running events—a surefire way to improve my physical self-care quotient.
5. Double the Fun
Think of ways to involve your spouse or children (or both) in a hobby. When our girls learned how to read, we would have nerd nights. The entire family would sit in the living room and read. Yes, reading counts as a hobby.
One summer our youngest daughter and I had regular training hikes where I prepared for an extreme hike, and she prepared for a trail race. Once a week we had an adventure together and celebrated with a meal afterwards.
By involving your family members, you’ll model good hobby habits as well as enjoy quality time with each other.
What About You?
Neither my students nor I have made canyoneering a life-long habit, but we all benefitted from the activity. You can read about one’s student’s courageous experience here.
What are some of your favorite active hobbies? Do you prefer to participate in hobbies alone, or with family and friends? Have you noticed a difference in your quality of life (stress levels or overall health) during the periods of your life when you engage in hobbies over those times when you don’t?
I’d love to hear about your experiences!If you want to reap the benefits of having a hobby, make sure you schedule time for participating in the activities you love. #hobby #selfcare Click To Tweet
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