Hobbies for the heart

Tuesday 3rd January, 2023

As I approached my thirties I started to feel as though my life was becoming all work and no play, my down time was limited to Netflix viewing and Facebook scrolling. When I was younger I had lots of hobbies, but my energy disappeared as I got older and worked full time. Truthfully I also felt as though certain hobbies weren't cool, and perhaps my co-workers and friends would think I was 'cringey' and weird. I was quite self conscious about fitting into the corporate world, which was miles away from the all singing and dancing girl who loved performing in a church hall pantomime. I was so much more aware of what people thought of me and fitting in. I started playing netball because it was what my colleagues were doing, but I have never been sporty and it was more of a chore than a fun hobby. I was also absolutely terrible at it, I would have helped the team more by staying at home.

I convinced myself I didn't have time to take up any hobbies. However, the weekly iPhone report of how much time I spent on my phone shocked me into realising that I clearly had time to take up a hobby, I just needed to stop scrolling for hours. I was also rattling through way too many Netflix documentaries, if I have hours of time to watch unsolved murders then surely I have time to take up a hobby.

I used my scrolling expertise to do something positive and look for ideas of hobbies I could take up. Many years ago I was in my school choir, after leaving school I never really gave it a second thought. I started to see a local choir pop up on my Facebook who were doing gigs in my area. I watched a few videos of the choir and thought there is no way I have the confidence to perform like that, but submitted a request to join out of boredom. Three years later and I am so proud of being part of the choir I will tell anyone that will listen about it. I love spending every Monday night chatting to my new friends that I have made there, and performing at various events and venues. We recently sang at a wedding and it was really special, I loved seeing such happy faces dancing along as we sang. It gave me such a boost, much more than a day of unsolved murders could.

I know choir isn't 'cool', but I couldn't care less as it makes me happy and I am proud of myself for finding something that makes me feel good. My husband joined too and he equally surprised himself about how good it made him feel, previously his only hobby was going to the pub!

Let me give you a few other ideas for hobbies to embrace:

A friend of mine recently joined a book club, I immediately imagined retired ladies discussing an old novel but it's a wide range of ages who enjoy reading new books and discussing them. It turns out they also like going for cocktails and just general chit chat. Again, she only joined once she was in her thirties as she felt it just wasn't a young person's hobby- but there are plenty of girls in their twenties who love reading and they should absolutely shout about it! You don't need to pretend you love clubbing when actually you just want to stay in with a good book. Books don't give you a hangover!

Its been quite well publicised that the British Olympian Tom Daley enjoys knitting, and was seen at the Tokyo Olympics knitting at the poolside. Tom is in his 20s and is very proudly showing the world how much he loves knitting, to the extent he has an Instagram page dedicated to it and sells knitting kits to inspire other people to take it up. As with book club, perhaps this activity is associated with older ladies knitting hats, but in a world when people are conscious of fast fashion knitting your own clothes has so many benefits.

There are plenty of hobbies that are free, for example outdoor activities. Parkrun are free events that happen all over the world, they are organised runs in parks and open spaces which take place on Saturday mornings. They are really well organised and friendly events, their website states that Parkrun is 'a positive, welcoming and inclusive experience where there is no time limit and no one finishes last. Everyone is welcome to come along, whether you walk, jog, run, volunteer or spectate.' Of course you can run alone and on your own time, but attending an event means you can meet new people and it may help motivate you to keep running.

In North East England we are very lucky to have quite a few lovely beaches, albeit they are absolutely freezing most months of the year. We don't exactly benefit from tropical temperatures up north but that doesn't stop sea swimming groups! They are becoming really popular, people have created Facebook groups to sea swim together, sometimes there are 200 attendees all running into the sea together! A friend recently took this up, never in my life did I think she would be seen dead in a wetsuit but she is fully embracing this new hobby. Historically she would send me a selfie of her hungover face on a Saturday, but she recently sent me a selfie of her looking really fresh and happy after a morning sea swim! It was great to see that she had found a new hobby that made her feel much better than a stinking hangover.

I can honestly say I have never woken up and had a desire to go into the sea, but I have been inspired by the idea I can have a laugh with new people and do something different. Full disclosure, at the time of writing I am still at the stage of being inspired and have yet to take the plunge. One day…

Why am I telling you all this? Hobbies are a great way to decompress from the stresses of adult life. Whilst work can leave you feeling very tired at the end of the day, doing a hobby you enjoy even for half an hour can really lift your mood and take your focus away from the tiring work day you have endured. Quite often I have convinced myself I am far too tired to go to choir after work, but it actually revitalises me and helps my mind clear before going to bed. Its also a great way to meet new and interesting people with similar interests, after all there is no age limit for making new friends!

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