Make Time for Fun

Ahhhh…

You’ve graduated. You’ve landed a job. You’re getting a paycheck. Life is good and you’ve got time to vibe.

Now what?

With more free time and some expendable income, this is a great time to revisit old hobbies that you miss or to explore new activities. Besides being a nice way to spend your time, there are also many great benefits to weaving activities into your life. Many of them can help you…

  • reduce stress
  • improve your health
  • protect or improve your memory
  • create eustress (we’ll tell you all about it)
  • make new friends
  • network professionally
  • learn a new practical skill

Reduce stress and improve health

Meditation, yoga and other mindfulness activities are known to lower anxiety, reduce depression and improve overall mental health through their impact on the cardiovascular system and the neurological system. But emerging research shows that other hobbies – like knitting, painting, woodworking or cake decorating – may also provide similar benefits.

According to Catherine Carey Levisay, a clinical neuropsychologist, “There’s promising evidence coming out to support what a lot of crafters have known anecdotally for quite some time.”

In the same article from CNN, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this phenomenon as “flow” – a few moments in time when you are so completely absorbed by a pleasurable activity that nothing else seems to matter. This zen-like feeling appears to contribute to healthier minds and bodies.

The mind at work

While some people feel guilty when they’re doing something that isn’t perceived as productive, your brain is actually working when you’re relaxing and spending time engaged in a variety of activities. In addition to brain games and puzzles, motor learning can also generate new synapses in the cerebellar cortex.

Playing ping-pong, climbing rock walls and learning a musical instrument – or doing many other activities that involve movement – are considered to be motor learning. This ability to continually create new neural pathways can improve your emotional and cognitive health by helping your brain remain flexible. This is known as neuroplasticity and is becoming more widely researched as experts seek to stave off dementia and treat conditions such as traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

You stress?

Nope, we’re talking about eustress, the “positive” stress that energizes us and keeps us moving forward. Think about the first time you went on a crazy roller-coaster, started a new job or experienced another exciting first. Different than stress that makes you freak out or feel exhausted, this is the buzz you get that keeps you from sliding into a rut.

Stress caused by a threat, like driving in nasty rush-hour traffic three hours a day wears you down and negatively affects your body and mind. However, if you get the opportunity to take a fast-paced spin around the track with your favorite NASCAR driver, that’s the good stress.

Nice to meet ya!

Getting involved in community theater, a local sports league or a group like the Jaycees can be a great way to burn off some steam and get to know people who have similar interests. Not only will you have a chance to explore new interests – or get back to those things you’ve missed doing – but you’ll have the opportunity to make new friends or establish new business connections.

Practical matters

Let’s face it. When you lived at home or were in college, you may not have needed to cook or bake very much. Perhaps you’ve never swung a hammer or repaired a hole in the wall. But now that you’re on your own, picking up some cooking skills (basic to gourmet) or DIY tips can give you new-found confidence and save you significant money (take-out meals can eat away at your budget). Before long, you’ll be the one your friends come to for advice and help!

Or maybe you’ve always enjoyed working out and your friends are envious of your physique. This might be a good time in your life to become a certified personal trainer, which can drop a little extra weight into your bank account.

You do you

No matter what your interests are, pursuing hobbies is a fantastic way to stay healthy, make friends and become a more well-rounded person.