A hobby is defined as a pursuit outside of one’s regular occupation, engaged in for relaxation. It involves a choice, pastime, amusement, pleasure, interest or delight. And it engenders fascination, allurement, attraction and temptation.
Hobbies call us to many things, places, people and activities. They speak to a part of our psyche that includes the body, mind and spirit. And in an unfathomable way, they nurture all three parts. They stretch us to grow, create and enjoy. They can involve difficulty, hard work and patience. Their reach is to teach, to call us to a new idea or skill, to challenge and reward us. They are a focus of fascination, whether they involve pottery, poetry, painting, woodworking, reading, dancing, card games, computers, hiking, china, chess or horseshoes – to name only some of the hundreds of choices we have here in our retirement community.
Why do we engage in them? Choosing is the first step, and I think it is done magnetically. We are attracted to an activity, drawn to it by a skill we may have or want. Often we try it with trepidation, unsure of ourselves or our skill. But there is something in the activity that satisfies us, encourages us, makes it a worthwhile expense of our time.
I’ve read that a repeated physical action can cause relaxation – knitting and crocheting might be examples of this. An intense focus that makes time seem to disappear is another hallmark of a hobby. I’ve seen woodworkers stand for hours with a fixed stare as they manipulate the wood they’re fashioning into a crib, cabinet or child’s toy. Working with clay or paint can have a special magic as schedules, obligations and worries take a back seat to creativity. The mind empties itself of anything extraneous to the focus.
And so a hobby is a gift we give ourselves, a way to create and relax. It’s a gift of “time out,” a distraction that allows us to live in the moment and not worry about what comes next. It’s a kind of hiding place for calm, patience, practice and productivity, an activity that rewards us.
And it’s available to individuals at all ages. Children may choose gymnastics or playing myriad musical instruments. When they find they are good at something, it draws them into the activity and reinforces their satisfaction with themselves.
And I think satisfaction is at the heart of a hobby. It’s a relaxation refuge we must discover for ourselves by exploring our skills and interests and stretching ourselves to learn and grow. A hobby can be good medicine. It can exercise the body, stretch the mind and soothe the spirit. And best of all, we don’t need a prescription.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”