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It’s never too late to teach yourself a new trick
By Christine Vogt
Senior Editor, MindEdge Learning
As the familiar proverb goes, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
The idea behind the proverb is the widely held belief that as we age, our ability to learn new things declines. This is, however, a common misconception that science has decisively disproven. Regardless of your age, you can still learn new things—and taking up a new hobby is one of the most satisfying ways to do just that.
So why should you bother to consider learning how to knit, exploring your inner green thumb, or taking up that instrument you’ve always wanted to learn to play? The answer is simple: hobbies are good for your health.
Regardless of which hobby you choose—whether it is beekeeping or blogging, chess or cooking, magic or martial arts—research has shown that having or starting a hobby benefits your mental health and improves your overall sense of well-being. Specifically, time spent engaged in personal enrichment increases positive moods by boosting the release of dopamine and other “feel-good” hormones, thereby reducing stress and feelings of depression. Other research has found that time spent in hobby-related activities is associated with lower blood pressure, body mass index, and waist circumference; it can also leave you feeling less fatigued, and increase your perceptions of improved physical function.
Hobbies, such as a joining a book club or a creative writing group, can also promote a feeling of connection. Let’s face it; it has been a long couple of years. Months of social distancing have led to a surge in feelings of loneliness and depression. Taking up a hobby affords an opportunity for social relationships and support that can greatly improve a person’s mental health, as shared experiences help us feel less isolated.
While the benefits of hobbies, both physical and psychological, are well documented, many people still struggle to take the leap. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Invest some time to brainstorm what captures your interest.
Ask yourself what you are genuinely interested in. Perhaps you want to learn a new skill, like playing an instrument or learning to speak a new language—or any and everything in between. Maybe it is something you’ve always wanted to try, or maybe you could reach back and revisit something you enjoyed as a kid.
Rethink how you manage your time.
One of the top reasons people give for not pursuing a hobby is that they feel they don’t have time. In reality, it is likely that you have more time than you think. According to a Nielsen Company audience report, the average person in the United States spends approximately 10 hours and 39 minutes each day on screens. This figure includes our daily use of smartphones, computers, video games, radios, tablets, and TVs. That is more time than the average adult sleeps at night! Granted, some of this time is spent on screens at work, but be mindful of what you are doing in your free time. You might be surprised by how much time you can free up for a hobby by limiting your screen time.
Shift your perspective.
In today’s world, we are immersed in an achievement-driven culture, making it difficult for us to unplug from our daily pressures. Focus on separating your need to be productive from your chosen hobby. Time spent engaged in your hobby should provide a relaxing outlet and genuine fulfillment.
Remember, hobbies come in all shapes and sizes. Indulge in taking the time to explore and find an activity that you enjoy and that ignites your passion. The time you invest in yourself will give you a positive return on your overall happiness and sense of well-being.
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