Updated: Jun 13, 2019
We live busy lives. We're pulled in all directions from the multiple roles that demand our time and attention. And often, our leisure activities are the first to be sacrificed. But doing activities you enjoy is pretty important to your well-being. And it's not just me who thinks so. The New York Times recently published The Case for Having a Hobby. Because in the crazy world we live in, we need a good reason to have a hobby.
Here's my story of neglecting, re-discovering and embracing my hobbies.
A few years ago, I noticed in myself a general feeling of dullness. I wasn't super-sad, nor was I super-happy. Everything just felt kind of "meh."
To someone on the outside, this dissatisfaction would have seemed very strange. I had it all: a career that earned me a significant income, great colleagues, an awesome partner in life, adorable kids, and a house in a lovely neighbourhood.
Yet, I was struggling and stressed. I strived to be a good employee, colleague, mother, wife, friend and daughter. Meeting the needs of all those roles left me feeling stretched and depleted. I didn't realize it at the time but I hardly ever did anything just for me. I was constantly putting the needs of others' first.
I believed I was having a mid-life crisis.
I began to get curious about how I could feel "meh" when I had so much. So I started looking into the question of happiness and fulfillment. I read books and articles, hired coaches and listened to podcasts.
One of my coaches asked me “what brings you joy?”
I was stumped.
“What else?” she said.
“Hiking?” I said less convincingly.
“What did you love when you were a kid?”
I couldn’t remember.
When I couldn’t answer the question with enthusiasm, she suggested I talk to people who knew me before my days were filled with what I had to do. I took on the challenge. I dug through dusty photo albums, talked to my sister, and called some old friends.
Those discussions yielded some good data.
A major theme was music. I always loved music. I loved singing, concerts and scatting around campfires with friends. I loved people who loved music and playing DJ on long car rides.
When my dad died I stopped listening to music. He was the one who constantly played music - at home, in the car, and even on the boat. He loved almost every genre and playing it up loud. When he passed away, listening to music felt risky. An old tune might move me to tears. Music might awaken my grief, and I couldn't go there.
So I stopped listening to music. And a door in my heart closed.
My discussions about "old Lauren" reminded me of my passion. Since years had passed since dad died, I decided to re-explore my former pastime.
I made a playlist, played my favourite songs for my kids in the car, and went to a concert.
I'm not going to tell you my whole life changed in an instant. But, as I began to make time for the activities that I really enjoy, I started experiencing good moods more frequently.
I took up cross-country skiing, whereas in the past I would have felt guilty leaving my family on a weekend. I insisted on a family camping trip. I made time to see old friends, and invited new ones for coffee.
I also pursued emerging passions, like studying positive psychology. This led to a career change, new friends, continual learning and personal development. Four for one!
Our hobbies don't have to become our career in order to live a rich life. If you love to bake bread, you may not need to trade your job for 5 am wake ups in a bakery. But, you may benefit from making time to take a baking class, or improving a technique, or hosting a bake-a-thon in your home for friends.
Take one small action and see where it goes.
I'll leave it here with two parting questions:
What songs would you put on a playlist of your life?
What do you do for fun and enjoyment?
Thanks for reading,
PS. As part of the process of becoming a certified practitioner of positive psychology, we were asked to design a project on any topic in the science of human flourishing. I decided to bring the science together with music. I embraced my inner teenager and made a playlist of songs that represent the various pathways to a thriving life.
If you’re interested in Positive Psychology 101 and great tunes, have a listen to my playlist here.