Developing and pursuing a hobby, whether it is as small as knitting a scarf or backpacking for the weekend, has a lot of benefits. This is scientifically proven in various studies that hobbies do make you more productive and happier at work.
Kevin Eschleman, one study’s lead author and assistant Psychology professor at San Francisco State University says that the more you’re engaged in an extracurricular hobby, the better you’ll do at work. Eschleman’s research concluded that you won’t do just a little bit better, your performance will become between 15% and 30% better!
On that note, let us clear out what a hobby is not, and what it is. It is not inactively scrolling through your social media and lazing around in your house and eating like a madman. It is an activity or a task that you do consciously, actively, willingly, and regularly, in leisure time, for pleasure. This can include various activities like gardening, yoga, playing music, hiking, dancing, cooking, birdwatching, reading, or even voluntarily & actively watching a TV series and not for the sake of being a couch potato. Hobby has to have tinge of learning, mastering, evolving, challenging, developing a skill, or a combination of these.
Well, you must be wondering ‘I don’t have the time and even if I did how in blue blazes will having a hobby make me better at work?!’
First of all, a little bit of time and self adjustment here and there will have you enough time to do your recreational activities. Keep count of holidays coming on for long activities or collect your leaves and spend them unsparingly. Our career might not be our passion of music or gardening, but we can always make enough time to pursue them, which can have an amazingly positive impact on our lives. And this leisure time is addictive. Once you start having this kind of time, you’ll want more of it and then you’ll realise the value of it. Only then, you’ll be able to make space for it.
We have evolved into people who give importance to only productive work, or when something is produced and then sold. We have an ‘achievement oriented’ culture. In this fast paced world, nobody has the time to follow hobbies. No one’s going to knit a scarf, unless it can be sold on Craftsvilla. No one will learn to play the guitar unless it can lead them to doing shows and making money. We are turning hobbies, which we readily used to do for fun and happiness into…..more work. But, what you miss out on by not following a hobby is psychological & mental satisfaction and the sheer delight that comes along with it.
A hobby is a Reset Button– It helps you forget about your work and stresses that come along with that. You get lost in your own world when you are doing something that you love or trying out something new. It’s a pure psychological vacation if you look at it that way. There are various benefits of various activities but in general, a hobby:
1. Helps in Creativity
A time off, involved in activities, not obliged by duties & responsibility, but performed voluntarily makes your three brain networks of default, executive control & salience control be in higher synchronicity. That improves creativity in the hobby that you pursue and in general, which ultimately helps to improve problem solving skills.
2. Being proud of yourself
The emotion processing circuits of the brain are highly active when you have taken that perfect shot on your DSLR, or when that flower in your garden has bloomed, or when you have reached the zenith of the mountain, or have made the perfect melody, or have ran that 4 mile sprint in one go. You feel happy about that achievement, which improves your self-esteem. This in turn helps in boosting your confidence and work in that office space more actively and with more conviction.
3. Being Interesting
A person with more hobbies and a happier after-office lifestyle is always more pleasant to talk to and interesting in general. People relate to you. In an office environment, it helps you make better personal connections with people around you. It makes you more than just ‘John from the accounting department’. You get to share your hobbies while others share theirs and that deepens the personal bond.
Knowing how to paint, crocheting an amazing design, cooking the best Chinese, whatever the case may be. You learn new skills. You develop yourself in a form that has nothing to do with compulsory productivity & efficiency. It’s a cliched saying, but you feel new and refreshed and even challenged sometimes.
5. Reduced Stress/Increased Happiness
A 2009 study showed that that more time spent on leisure activities was correlated with lower blood pressure, lower levels of depression and stress, and overall better psychological and physical functioning.
Now, I am an avid trekker and a fan of nature. Whenever I have two or more consecutive holidays, I go off in the mountains to clear my mind and be away from everything stressy. Every activity has its benefits. For me, being in the Himalayas makes me feel how beautiful it is to exist and be able to witness all the elegant things around us. I love travelling through the heavenly trails. It makes me feel thankful & makes the work issues look small. Nature is a cheap therapy. To learn more about this, you can read Your Brain on Nature by Alan Logan. On the other end, I play the guitar everyday for 20 minutes at least. It’s a great conversation starter and it has made me a better listener overall, apart from looking cool. It’s also improved my concentration, memory and creativity. There is a sense of fulfillment when I reach the peak of a mountain while carrying a rucksack & my guitar.
“It gives you a sense of mastery, you’re developing new skills, new thought processes and really challenging yourself to learn something new and develop your skill set,” said Dr. Kevin Eschleman, an assistant psychology professor at San Francisco State University, (delete-who led a study on the correlation between hobbies and job performance.)
So, get to it right away. Research you interests. Think about what you used to love doing as a kid. Think what made you jovial without it having any monetary importance. Start ticking the right boxes by going to a class or a learning activity and feel more accomplished.