How a passion for pastimes can be good for you.
With pandemic restrictions forcing the cancellation of vacations, events and gatherings, many Canadians have been left with a lot of extra time on their hands. While some people have stayed busy doing home renovations, catching up on binge-worthy TV shows or doing volunteer work, others have used their extra time to try out a new hobby or revisit an old favourite they had put on hold.
Hobbies are more than just a fun way to ward off boredom during a lockdown – they can be good for you too. If you are one of the many Canadians who has embarked on a new pastime (or you are about to), you’ll be happy to hear that hobbies can be just as beneficial to your overall health as eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly.
Hobbies are a great way to reduce stress because they allow your mind to escape from the daily grind while still doing something productive. They can be a good way to focus on positive outcomes, rather than on negative thoughts, and can help boost your mood, which is especially important during a pandemic. It doesn’t matter what you do – any activity that helps you unwind will ease some stress, as long as you love doing it. The key is to do something that makes you happy.
Activities such as gardening, golfing or biking can be great for your physical health. Recent reports show many of us spend too much of our lives sitting down, which can lead to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and other chronic health conditions – so a pastime that gets you out of your chair and moving your muscles is a worthwhile undertaking. It’s no secret that physical activity can help control weight, but it can also lower blood pressure and give you an emotional lift.
Exercise your brain, too
Hobbies can provide just the right amount of challenge to stimulate your mind and break up your everyday routine – without feeling like work. Taking an online art class or learning a new language, for example, can offer a real sense of accomplishment as you see yourself improve.
Keeping your mind active is especially important for long-term health. Several studies show a direct link between recreational activities and an improved quality of life. Pursuits that stimulate the brain, like reading or learning a craft, can help maintain cognitive ability and prevent signs of dementia in older adults.
Discover a new love
Taking stock of what you already enjoy is a great place to start. If you like to cook, a sushi-making tutorial could be right up your alley. If you’re good with your hands, you may enjoy building birdhouses or creating jewellery. Perhaps you want to revisit your youth. Were there certain activities you enjoyed when you were younger that you could take up again, such as playing a musical instrument, swimming or painting? Keep in mind that as your interests change, your hobbies probably will too, and that’s okay. Trying out new and different things helps make life more exciting.
Might as well make a buck
Today’s virtual world makes it easier to showcase the fruits of our labour, should we so desire. While many people proudly display their custom cakes or latest homemade knitwear on social media, some may decide to start a little side hustle. E-commerce platforms like Etsy or Faire allow people to set up shop and sell their one-of-a-kind creations, perhaps helping to fund their monthly grocery bill, or recover the costs of equipment or materials.
Whatever hobby you choose, commit to getting started and pencil some well-deserved “me” time into your calendar. Even an hour a week will go a long way. You may be pleasantly surprised to find a hobby that can improve your well-being now and for years to come.
Throughout history there have been plagues, pandemics and lockdowns. Interestingly, some historical figures produced their most famous work while in quarantine. Here are just a few examples.
William Shakespeare. The bubonic plague of the early 1600s forced London into a year-long lockdown, and Shakespeare found himself with plenty of free time because theatres were closed down. Before the end of 1606 he composed King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.
Sir Isaac Newton. In 1665 the bubonic plague once again struck England, and Cambridge University closed. Since Newton, then in his early 20s, was unable to attend classes, he retreated to his family estate to study solo. During this time, he came up with some of his most important ideas, including his theories on optics, as well as the beginnings of calculus and his theory of gravity.
Edvard Munch. During the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918–20, The Scream painter Munch actually contracted the disease. His painting Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu shows him rather ill-looking while sitting in front of his bed. Thankfully, Munch recovered and lived to continue making great art.