What do you think of when you hear the word “hobby?” For some reason, most people think of older generations: retirement home bingo, a quilt your grandmother made, your father’s baseball card collection. Emerging research, however, is showing that hobbies have positive effects on people of all ages. In fact, acquiring one when you’re young just may make your golden years a little brighter.
According to Alice Dormar, director of the Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School, hobbies are powerful stress-relievers, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s impossible to focus on your daily worries when you’re mentally committed to something you love. Hobbies also provide many people with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. This leads to boosts in creativity, self-esteem, and pleasure over time. But hobbies can improve your mood in short bursts too! Repetitive motions, such as knitting, embroidering, and dealing cards, elicit the brain’s relaxation response, which has been shown to lower blood pressure and release positive chemicals in the brain.
According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, participating in mentally stimulating activities throughout one’s life can reduce chances of developing memory disorders later on. This includes crossword puzzles, board games, and reading. Also, according to Molly Magster of the National Institute on Aging, learning new skills later in life helps maintain, and may even improve, brain function. The recent Fox Searchlight documentary Young@Heart follows the lives of 24 elderly singers. The choir strives each week to conquer challenging material in a variety of genres – including punk rock. The challenge keeps the singers on their toes and mentally engaged in a thoroughly enjoyable way.
According to a recent Japanese study of 12,000 people, spending time with like-minded people can boost your immune system. In fact, the study found that men who engage in community activities were less likely to die because of stroke or circulatory disease. Fortunately, many hobbies are social. Group classes can teach you everything from salsa dancing to fly-fishing, from sculpture to French. Classes guarantee you’ll be surrounded by people who share your passions (even if you discovered your love for scrap-booking the day before.) If classes aren’t your style, join a sports team, poker circle, or book club. The choir found that being with friends caused them to take better care of themselves. They also found that life’s challenges are easier to face when you do it with people who can commiserate. It makes sense that social hobbies are among the most popular. They provide an additional perk – new friends!
Get a hobby and no one can accuse you of needing to “get a life!” Some hobbies can be expensive, but they can be worth every penny. And just think, it’s a lot cheaper than therapy! Ready to commit but unsure of what to try? An extensive list of hobbies can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hobbies. So get out there and beat the blues, clear your foggy head, and make new friends! You just may find out why your crazy Uncle Al always brought along his metal detector.
© 2008 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted provided the authors are notified and the following bio information is included:
Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at www.kathleenpassanisi.com
Annie Passanisi is the daughter of a motivational speaker (see above) who inherited her mother’s love for women’s issues and the platform. If that does not tell you enough about her, she is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swing set champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.
Need a mother/daughter speaker team? Have Kathleen and Annie co-present for you.