Hopko Maxim #21: Have a Healthy, Wholesome Hobby

This won’t be the first time that I write about the importance of rest and recreation in the spiritual life.  A previous blog post spoke about the importance of rest in general, and another focused on the importance of regular cycles of rest of varying amounts. In the next of Father Thomas Hopko’s 55 Maxims for Christian Living, he advises us to “Have a Healthy, Wholesome Hobby.” While it may once again seem irrelevant to the Christian life what we do in our “free time”, it turns out that it’s actually essential to spend some time–in addition to our spiritual exertions–to not only rest but also do something recreational, something that is both healthy and wholesome.  For some of us, those hobbies are sports like tennis or golf, while for others they may be crafts like photography or needlepoint. For others they may be specific activities like reading, hiking or kayaking…which just happen to be my hobbies. Many of my previous musings came about while spending some quiet time in nature and finding inspiration from what I saw around me in the weather, the landscapes, or even in spotting a group of turtles hanging out on a branch.

Our hobbies allow us many blessings, among which are the needed break from work, a chance to see God at work in a different setting, and the need to exercise different skills and gifts that aren’t always tapped in our work life. Each of these help us to recognize more clearly the Image of God in which we were created and to more closely be molded into His Likeness. So, yes, healthy hobbies enjoyed in healthy amounts can be very effective in our spiritual growth.

The article below does not come from a spiritual perspective, but does show us how important this recommendation is from the broad view of our lives as a whole.

Six Reasons to Take up a Hobby

By Jeff Hayward

Sure, you could spend all your free time watching television or looking at YouTube videos, but that’s like junk for the brain, depending on the kind of programming you’re watching. Unless it’s an educational show, you’re not really doing your brain any favors (or your body as you load in those potato chips).

Instead of watching other people do things on the screen, why not take up a hobby and start doing things that you enjoy? Here are six good reasons to follow your passion, whether you think you’re “talented” or not. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of trying it to see if you love it.

  1. Hobbies Clear your Mind

Regardless of your hobby, if you take time to enjoy it and get better at it, you can lose yourself and forget about any worries for a while. Business Insider notes that if you choose a hobby that requires a good deal of skill—such as knitting—”the bilateral, rhythmic motion induces a relaxing, meditative state.”

Basically, the principle is that if you’re focusing on improving your skills, your mind doesn’t have room to wander into negative spaces. It also helps time pass because you lose your sense of time when you’re engrossed in your hobby, added Business Insider.

  1. Hobbies Build Confidence

Many people fail to take up a hobby because they figure they’re not any good at it and they’d be wasting their time. Quite the opposite—practicing a skill and improving upon it will also create more motivation to continue. According to a 2013 article in the Huffington Post, pursuing a passion is a great way to build self-esteem, giving you an enhanced sense of purpose and improving your overall quality of life. A hobby can be particularly helpful in winter, a season that tends to isolate people and drive down their sense of self-esteem.

  1. Hobbies Build Neural Pathways

Taking up a hobby can help keep your brain healthy later in life, according to Web Psychology. Their article explains that while most new hobbies, like learning to use the Internet and maintaining social connections, have cognitive benefits for seniors. It’s the artistic hobbies that really shine for brain boosting. Web Psychology also noted artistic pursuits that could include drawing, painting, as well as sewing and quilting also build new skills. According to a study cited in the article, the study participants were “significantly less likely to have cognitive impairment than those who’d never indulged in artistic activities.” Findings credit art for developing new neural pathways, and possibly creating “a larger cognitive reserve” to draw from.

  1. Hobbies Fight Stress

The Mayo Clinic lists taking up a hobby as an effective way to suppress stress, as it calms your nerves. However, the clinic said to choose a hobby that doesn’t require you to be competitive, which can create more stress. It suggests reading, gardening, making crafts, or even outdoors activities like fishing that require focus and concentration. Hobbies like taking up dancing don’t have to be competitive, and you’ll get the mental benefits of learning new steps while also the physical benefits of exercise.

  1. Hobbies Boost your Career

The popular networking site LinkedIn published an article earlier this year noting how hobbies can improve your job situation. Not only do hobbies listed on a resume show you lead a more balanced life, it also shows dedication to a craft.

LinkedIn notes that the best hobbies to help you land a great job include creative pursuits, team sports, endurance sports, reading and writing, and even travelling. Depending on the type of career you’re looking for, these pursuits can show employers you’re seeking to advance yourself outside of the workplace, which is attractive to many hiring managers.

  1. Hobbies Promote Social Bonding

If you are looking to improve your skills, you can always join an organization such as a book club or knitting group to learn from others in a non-competitive environment. When you know everyone in the group is working towards a common goal, it can make the activity more enjoyable and help you draw inspiration from others. Even if your hobby is a solo activity, like drawing, you can still share your creations with online forums to get constructive criticism and praise. If you’re comfortable, you can attend a life-drawing class that offers models to sketch. Oftentimes, people in these groups end up becoming friends you can spend time with outside of the hobby.