Hobbies and interests
By Kerry Hudson
When filling out application forms, online dating profiles and in general conversation, when asked about our hobbies and interests there tends to be a slight pause where we have to think about it. In our generation we seem to have moved into the 'competitive career = success' way of valuing our lives and filling our time; we work longer hours, we eat on the go and we sleep less... So where's the time for the persuits we enjoy?
During a difficult period where I tried to fill each hour of the day doing something constructive for fear of my thoughts going in unwanted directions, a friend sat me down and on a piece of paper drew several circles and in each circle she wrote down a task such as working, nesting/chores, exercise, finances, balanced diet.. and also things like relaxing, socializing, treats, hobbies, time by self... At the end of the day I was to put a tick in each circle that I paid particular attention to.
Neglecting our hobbies
A month later I realised that I'd been paying very little attention to the things that gave me the most pleasure and I'd been neglecting hobbies that made who I am. And I am not alone. I asked several people what they do in their spare time and popular answers were taking work home, household chores, going to the gym, or going to the pub. All of the above serve a purpose; when we take work home we ease the pressure of the following day, when we tidy our homes we de-clutter the mind, the gym... well it's the gym, and pubs are where we regroup and connect with friends and make new ones. But are we actually unwinding our minds enough?
Hobbies to unwind the mind - Top 5 tips
Here are my top five ideas for healthy hobbies for the mind for those of us who tell ourselves “I don't have the time or money for hobbies”.
I live in London, and I worked out it was cheaper to buy a bike from Cambridge, a notorious student cycling town and bring it back on the train. It cost me £70 nearly eight years ago and has never let me down, not to mention saving hundreds of quid from travelling on public transport. I'm not very confident on main roads so I find alternative cycling routes through parks and canal paths from the internet mainly Google Maps. On a hot day with a picnic in my rucksack and a cycling budding (or with a local cycling club), a day out on the bikes serves a perfect afternoon out.
Best for fresh air, exercise and saving money. Ticking the mental health 'green exercise' box!
Bear with me.. I taught myself to knit when I gave up smoking as it gave me something to do with my hands whilst absorbing my attention to detail. By browsing in local wool shops and surfing the net for patterns I noticed clubs in my area such as Stitch n' Bitch, I-knit and Knitty Gritty which meet in shop workshops, parks even pubs. A year later I set up a stall in a local market, another year later I put on an exhibition, so a smoking alternative turned into a successful little project. Providing you're careful with your needles you can take your knitting anywheresuch as cafe's, trains, lunch breaks, bed (although my friend did cause a chuckle when she tried to get her knitting needles through Olympic security!) It also saves you money on Christmas shopping and with lots of free pattern on the internet it's a cheap hobby.
Best for on the go, meeting people, unwinding and saving money.
Whatever you love to talk about, what ever winds you up, pictures you want you share, songs you like to listen to, why not share it with like minded people across the globe. If you haven't done so already, it's free to set up a blog. I use blogspot as it's nice and easy, wordpress is also fantastic. As a writer I may be biased but expressing oneself through writing is a great therapeutic tool, and blogging is a great way to meet similar thinking people all over the world. It's a great way to spend an evening if you're on your own and as with social networking sites it reduces loneliness and boredom.
Best for self expression and online networking.
We seem to have forgotten all about these, even though they provide hours of entertainment for families, dinner guests and pairs. Last Christmas I asked Santa (via Amazon) for nostalgic board games, the ones that consumed me during school holidays. They are fantastic boredom distractions, a good work-out for the mind, and often seen played by dating couples in pubs. Short time filler favourites are Kerplunk, Operation, Buckeroo and Downfall. If you want to make an evening of it, Monopoly, Balderdash, Trivial Pursuit or Cleudo. Are equally as fun. If you happen to have a Twister mat in the attic even better, if not, you can still get them.
Best for socialising and endorphin releasing fun.
For those of you like me can't sit still long enough to relax, meditation can be accessed through yoga classes. By stretching and breathing for forty minutes plus our body is ready for the meditation process that often follows. Counsellors and holistic therapists often make meditation CD's for their clients, Mindfulness is a medative practice that is very common at the moment. You can also buy tracks from health and book shops, hire from libraries or download from the internet. It may take a while the first few times to get into the relaxation process, but once you get into a routine of meditating, you will learn to unwind easier – you can practice in lunch breaks, on the bus etc. – sleep better, cope with stress and have firmer relationships with yourself and others. Give it a go.
Best for unwinding, relaxation and general health all over.
Whatever you decide to try, hobbies and interests can relax, inspire and give us that much needed time for ourselves which can benefit our mind, body and soul...