Doing things with our hands is therapeutic. This is why hobbies and pastimes are valuable, specially when we regularly take time for them. If you don’t do something that involves focused concentration on something you enjoy doing, consider starting.
The benefits are well documented; throughout human history and out of necessity people have developed and honed their manual skills. In our techno-rational civilisations we are increasingly alienated from activities that involve making and doing things, either individually or in groups. Consider some of the things that a hobby involves:
Time for you
Quietly getting on something that we enjoy brings psychological benefit. Young children in school have their ‘quiet time’, adults need this too.
Learning something new
People need challenge to grow, learn and flourish. Tackling tasks where we are absorbed in learning new skills, improving them or ‘getting it right’ nourishes a part of us that is often neglected.
It helps with identity
Work these days rarely gives us the satisfaction of seeing something we have produced. In earlier times we would have finished the day having made, moved or manufactured something. It provided tangible evidence of our contribution. Unconsciously this says ‘I exist’ to ourselves and others. Recognition and personal pride are positive side-effects.
Connection with others
Even though they might be practiced in isolation, hobbies often bring people together through classes, clubs, exhibitions and interest groups. We are a social species and benefit from a kind of contact that family alone cannot give us.
Anticipation and planning
Much of the enjoyment is derived from thinking and planning the pastime or project. It provides something to look forward to, an antidote to the routines and demands of our daily lives. You don’t actually have to be doing the hobby to enjoy it.
An antidote to stress
Many people put this at the top of the list. No need for explanation.
We need to be creative to flourish. Creativity is about the self and ‘creative’ people like writers, artists and musicians will tell you that first and foremost they do it for themselves. Celebrity and fame may follow, but these are not the motivators that keep people learning and striving, it is personal satisfaction and sense of achievement that do that.
Long term studies have shown that people who flourish and enjoy their lives are involved in activities that take them outside themselves. A hobby provides scheduled and structured time doing something that takes us away from our cares and concerns . This allows the mind to do its natural ‘housekeeping’ like tidying up loose ends, making sense of things and even finding inspiration. These are largely unconscious processes that cannot be done unless the conscious mind is busy doing something else.
These are some preliminary ideas, the list could go on and on. I’ve made my point that doing things that require manual skills nourishes us in ways that other aspects of our demanding lives cannot do.
As with everything, there should be balance. We all know someone who is obsessive about a pastime to the point where it bores and/or excludes others.
This is the ideal moment to start. In winter we spend more time indoors so autumn is a good time to prepare.