Stop Trying so Hard to Have a Hobby

If you have to really work at it, it’s probably not worth the effort.

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Being an adult is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I had a whole bunch of awesome hobbies when I was a teenager — playing sports, making music, jumping on trampolines and whatnot — but I had to abandon them all, just so I could make enough money to stay alive.

This is an incredibly common problem, too. The definitive reason why hobbies are so onerous as an adult is simply because nobody has the freaking time, something we’ve written about before:

“When deciding on whether or not you should join that ornithology club or learn how to do the Charleston, consider how much time doing so will actually take. Will you have to leave work early? Are there away games and will your mom be worried? Will you have to give up your precious second nap? Before committing to anything, keep in mind that the best kinds of hobbies (and the ones you’re most likely to show up for/do more than once) are undeniably the ones you can practice while watching TV or while waiting for an open table at brunch.”

But everyone can benefit from some kind of hobby, since having one works wonders for your mental health, helps you make friends and can even prevent the development of dementia. So to help me stop from going insane and start having at least a little fun, I asked psychologist Jeanette Raymond how to make time for a hobby as an adult with more responsibilities than any one human should ever have.

The first step, Raymond says, is coming to terms with the fact that your old hobbies might not fit into your new lifestyle. “The notion of hobby changes as we progress from youngsters to adolescents to young adults and then to older adults,” she emphasizes. “So it’s important to redefine what a hobby might mean to a person as they transition from one stage of life to another. As a younger person, it may mean developing an interest in something that’s outside the norm, which offers the opportunity to acquire skills and perseverance, as well as explore talents — i.e. a growth opportunity.”

“As you get older and have more responsibilities,” Raymond continues, “the notion of hobbies becomes more one of relaxation, de-stressing, recharging your batteries and so on. It’s about giving yourself permission to have a break from constant responsibilities and feel a more personal and intimate part of oneself. In this case, a hobby becomes like a reward. It gives you a chance to create a space for yourself without guilt or shame, without fear that you’ll be sucked into the ‘hobby’ and become irresponsible.”

In other words, the expectation that you should have the same hobbies you used to have — and that you should be able to put in the same amount of time — can be more harmful than helpful. Instead, Raymond suggests that an adult hobby can be whatever feels right in the moment (possibly even if that means sitting on the couch and watching TV, I hope). “Making time is really about desire,” she explains. “We all make time for the things we think are important and pretend we don’t have time for the things we don’t believe are important. If doing yoga, knitting, surfing or reading novels is a way of recognizing the importance of self-care, then these ‘hobbies’ will find a place in your daily and/or weekly schedule. If you feel you have to do it because it’s ‘good’ to have hobbies or outlets, it won’t work. It’s just another item on the to-do list of being a good person.”

Take, for instance, my colleague Erin Taj, who recently picked up practicing Jiu Jitsu. Taj says the only thing that keeps her coming back is the fact that she truly enjoys it, and therefore, has no trouble finding the time. “It’s just a matter of how people want to spend their time,” she explains. “Do you want to spend it drinking with friends and watching Netflix? Or do you want to spend it on your body? For me, physical health and mental health have always been synonymous, and three nights a week isn’t too much to ask of myself — we only get one body, and I’d like mine to be happy.”

She does, however, add that she doesn’t have kids, “So I can’t really convince myself that I don’t have the time or energy.”

Again, Raymond reiterates that finding time for hobbies is simple when you actually enjoy them. “Hobbies are easy to make time for when you have a yearning to renew a past interest, discover a new one, or both,” she says. “Some people enjoy solitary ones for peace and quiet, where they can regroup and not have to take care of other things. Others prefer social hobbies, like singing in a choir or playing bridge and mahjong. It’s all about having a regular time set aside that you look forward to — separate from your routine responsibilities, which have their own schedule.”

So in the simplest of terms, rather than forcing time-consuming, planned-long-in-advance hobbies upon my adult self, I should just do whatever the heck I want, and the rest will fall into place.

I still think being an adult is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, though.