HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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Retirement. “The cultural norm for retirement is that you are living the good life.”


Hobbies add layers to your identity and richness to your self-concept. Other people like to be around those with passions, a sense of curiosity and stories to tell, all of which hobbies can provide. You’ll also have something interesting to talk about and share with others. Your hobbies will not only inspire you, they may also inspire others as well.

HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Left to our whims, we often opt for passive leisure activities, such as TV viewing and surfing the Web. But we are much more invigorated by active leisure that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi calls flow activities. When we get lost in a sport, art project or other challenging, ab- sorbing activity, we experience flow as Csikszentmihalyi defines the term. Time flies, self-consciousness disappears and you’re fully immersed in the activity at hand. Hobbies keep you present in the now. When you are caught up with something you enjoy, you are not focused on the future or dwelling on the past.


For retirees, hobbies can play a critical role in sharpening cognitive ability, keeping the mind active and engaged and preventing the symptoms of depression that can lead to serious health problems. Some retirees sail smoothly into retirement, spending time on hobbies and with family and friends. But others experience anxiety, depression and debilitating feelings of loss, says the APA.


“People can go through hell when they retire and they will never say a word about it, often because they are embarrassed,” said Robert Delamontagne, Ph.D. and author of The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition to

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela S. Hoover is a Staff Writer for Living Well 60+ Magazine

more articles by Angela S. Hoover

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time. Yet research has shown people who have hobbies are generally healthier and have lower risks of depression and dementia, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Hobbies help physically in several ways. They ease stress, lower blood pressure and total cortisol levels and help reduce body mass index.


Hobbies help us structure our time. According to Parkinson’s law, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, things take as much time as you have. So when a day or an evening stretches out unscheduled before you, it can feel lonely and pointless. But a hobby, especially one that requires you to go somewhere at particular times, forces you to get tasks done more quickly. Ironically, hobbies can create more time by encouraging efficiency.


The ideal hobby fulfills three roles: as a diversion (escape from daily life), as a passion (engaging in something you love) and as a way to create a sense of purpose, says Michael Brickey, author of Defy Aging.