About a year ago, I decided that I was going to take my personal journaling and turn it into a website. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing and I hadn’t quite identified a reason why I was doing it, but I felt this indescribable pull to start writing more frequently and sharing my thoughts with others. In this past year, I have written and published almost 30 articles, reaching readers all over the world.
In the end, I’ve made a total of $0 from these efforts. But, I realized along the way that this has become an incredibly fulfilling hobby for me at a time when I was really seeking fulfillment and purpose in my life.
I have also watched my husband develop and hone in on his hobby of woodworking. He has built us incredible pieces for our home and has given projects away as presents to friends and loved ones. He has brought in a grand total of $0 with his hobby as well.
What I have found is that a hobby doesn’t need to be an additional source of income. Even further, no matter how busy we are—we can always make time for it. When I started writing, I was working full time, going to graduate school full time, and also teaching a college class one day a week. If we want to make time, we will find it.
The truth is that creating space in your life to pursue a passion in the form of a hobby has incredible benefits on your mental health.
Here are 3 mental health benefits that I have discovered in the past year:
1. Regaining a sense of control
Life is full of stuff we have no control over. This can be frustrating and intimidating. Sometimes, even if we are lucky enough to get paid for doing what we love, it comes with a price. We might have a supervisor to report to, deadlines to meet, little say over our direction, or a financial overhead to consider.
But a hobby is yours and yours alone. You can choose how to spend your time, you can choose when you want to work on it, and you can take full creative licensure over your work and make it all about you. This brings control back into your life and allows you to manifest and take ownership of something that YOU brought to fruition. You even have the right to decide if you want to share it with the world or keep it to yourself. You alone have the ability to make all of these decisions because this hobby is about you and pursuing what makes you feel happy and whole.
2. Feeling accomplished
We all need a solid ‘win’ every once in awhile. Whenever I finish an article, even if it doesn’t get published in the first place I send it to, I feel this sense of pride over the completion of a task. I watch my husband’s sense of accomplishment when he completes a new project and we either find a place for it in our home or we give it away to someone else.
There is something truly beautiful about setting out to do something, following through on it, and then witnessing the final product come together. Its even more beautiful to know that whatever this final product is, it came from a place of genuine, authentic and intrinsic motivation. In my mind, there is nothing more fulfilling than a passion project, because its not just the completion that is the accomplishment—it is the whole journey.
3. Finding purpose and meaning
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t occasionally need some motivation to get out of bed in the morning. But, when I have an idea of something to write—my entire body comes to life. My wheels start turning and I can’t wait to get my thoughts on paper. It just so happens that I write for myself and for others. So, when I have a reader reach out to me and tell me that I helped them in some way, I feel like my life has more meaning.
But the truth is that whether your hobby is to create some form of art, to volunteer in service of others, to enhance a personal skill, or to bring people together for a sport or event—the excitement that we feel when we are pursuing what we love really fills our lives with meaning.
The idea is to choose a hobby that guides you into your ‘flow state,’ or a state that allows us to lose sense of time by becoming so engaged in a task that everything else slips away. When we reach this mental state, we get a glimpse into our soul—into that little place inside of us where our authenticity and happiness thrives. Once we access this place, the mental health benefits are far reaching.
As a counselor, I often remind people that our career doesn’t need to be the only avenue for deriving meaning and purpose from our lives. Sometimes, we simply can’t afford to chase our passion as a career— but that doesn’t mean these sources of joy need to slip away. If you can make some money pursuing your hobby, great. But, that’s not the only reason to follow through with it. Because identifying and pursuing a hobby can ignite a spark in us to live more purposefully—and you can’t put a price tag on that.