Dude, You Need A Hobby...
It's cold outside, there's not much to look forward to now that even Valentine's is over with, and the winter blues are setting in... What to do?
Well, definitely DON'T just let it get you down! This is the perfect time of year to pick up a hobby - or a new one if you've become a bit unenthusiastic about your current hobbies - and to beat the blues the productive way.
There is nothing at all like putting your feet up (or standing, or whatever position you take) and getting stuck into a favourite hobby. It creates a sense of peace, of flow and that je ne sais quoi that makes life so much more enjoyable. But there is much more to your hobby/ies than you'd ever imagine...
Here are my personal hobbies, in order from top to bottom (and the order changes based on my mood!):
1. Crochet (especially while listening to podcasts, Abraham Hicks, or meditation music on YouTube)
2. Wall hangings and macrame
3. Sewing - definitely taken a backseat since I learned to crochet - more on that below
4. Jewellery making
6. Experimenting with herbal concoctions, lotions and potions and sharing them with my peeps
There are so many other things I am able to do (and enjoy doing) such as drawing, DIY round the house, jigsaw puzzles, playing guitar etc, but they aren't really what I consider hobbies because I don't do them often enough for them to be a feature in my life. To me a hobby is 'that thing' you love doing because it relaxes you, energises you and just brings you back to yourself in a way that nothing else can. It's also the thing you would choose to do above all else, generally speaking! (Hmmm, fold washing or crochet... no need for me to 'eeny meeny miney mo' on that one!)
So what makes these specific things so very much a priority in my spare time? Well each one provides different benefits and challenges and depending on what I feel I need in the moment, that will inform my decision on what I pick up and do.
But overall, the biggest benefit of having hobbies is the nurturing of my sense of self. It's ME time. It's that point in the day/week when I can just give in to what I love to do rather than do more of the things I HAVE to do that I may or may not enjoy doing. I can relinquish responsibility and just do something that feeds my soul.
In future posts I'll be talking about some of my crafts specifically, just in case it will inspire you to pick it up and have a go ;) But believe me when I tell you that no matter what your hobby is/will be, the most important thing is that it's something that is just for YOU.
It can (of course) also be something that is useful, or marketable or whatever else you want it to be, but the number one factor is that you must love to do it so much you would rather do that than just about anything else on Earth. Maybe for you it's ballroom dancing, or painting, or playing the piano. It doesn't matter, as long it makes your heart sing, and is not purely utilitarian.
Here are a few of the ways I've come to my hobbies that could get you thinking about things you might want to try.
Hobbies Born Of Necessity
Some hobbies are born from a need to achieve a certain outcome in a certain way that you couldn't get without doing it yourself. (We Mama Bears are notorious for wanting things done our way which of course is the right way, right?)
These can be the things we think we couldn't do, wouldn't enjoy doing or just don't think we have time for, but that end up being something we love doing because it gives us the results we want. I have several skills I picked up this way that I just wouldn't be without now. They were much easier and cheaper than I ever expected they'd be, hardly take any time at all, and give me tremendous freedom in many aspects of my life.
If you know you need something very specific; or even really want something you are not willing or able to pay a lot for; it's pretty easy, and often cheap or even free, to learn the basics from online blogs, videos and tutorials. I learned just about everything I know this way. My deep gratitude to all the bloggers and video-makers I have followed and learned from has made me really want to give back in my own way, with my own spin on things to bring a fresh perspective in the hopes it will help someone else and pass on the blessings. Google and Pinterest are your BFF's here ladies, as if I actually need to speak those words...
One example of a hobby I picked up out of need more than desire is sewing, but then discovered it was quite fun and incredibly creative. I always told my mother (who was a seamstress - and a qualified lingerie seamstress at that, she could make bras, corsets... the works) that I couldn't fit sewing into my life; literally! The amount of space it takes up is ridonkulous; especially since I inherited all of her sewing paraphernalia (including an Australian Horn compact sewing desk).
But when I needed black out curtains for the boys' room and couldn't afford to buy them - but could afford the fabric - it became a skill I learned out of neccessity that has served me very well in life and saved me a lot of money.
However, not being as dedicated to it as my mother was, and being so perfectionist about it, meant that it was a hobby that actually stressed me out more than anything. I couldn't rely on my hands to do the machine stitching - the machine had to do that part - and sometimes, no matter how hard I tried to improve my skill with my machine I just couldn't get the result I wanted. It was also a very counter-intuitive skill for me to learn.
Working inside out, in 3D, and with very intricate parts and fiddly steps is not something my brain is very good at. I have sewn very few items of clothing for precisely this reason. I always marvel at the bloggers who knock up a 3 dimensional pattern (like a stuffed toy) and put it up like it was nothing. I can - if I work my brain very hard after a significant amount of caffeine - come up with a pattern for something I want to create; provided I have found enough information on completing elements within the pattern that I wasn't sure how to do or couldn't find in my various sewing books. But boy is it a challenge for me - and not one I always enjoy.
I DO enjoy sewing - when I am creating something that is relatively simple (and especially if I can decorate it with beads and ribbons etc) - but when I'm making something difficult or fiddly, it quickly moves from an enjoyable hobby to a pain in my arse. But it challenges my brain in ways that not many other things do, which means that when I achieve a good result it really makes me feel awesome and accomplished, and for that reason I consider it a great hobby.
So that was a very long-winded way of saying that whether you view something as a hobby or not, depends on the task at hand and your level of competence, and that sometimes you can come to a great hobby simply out of need or desire for something you can't get otherwise.
Hobby On Purpose
A slightly more nuanced version of the point above.
The sewing example illustrates that hobbies can be very purposeful and provide you with things that you could never get anywhere else - whether because of expense, personal health reasons, or even just personal taste and preferences. Most of my hobbies have stemmed from a desire to have something for my kids, myself or my home that I couldn't afford to buy, but had the creative inclination and resources to create myself - with the help of the internet or the library.
But hobbies can also be a very real source of independence in a world that relies heavily on industry. If you can be the one producing many of the things you need in your life, not only do your costs come way down, but your self-sufficiency ratchets up many notches, which leads to a fulfilling and confident lifestyle.
For example, although I personally don't consider soap-making a hobby myself - though I know it easily could be if I let it! - many do and create stunning effects in soap that I consider Soap Artistry. And boy does it provide a huge level of independence from the toxic crap peddled in supermarkets. For health-conscious folk like me, that is a massive win. And the best part is how just 3 different soap recipes will fulfil all your needs in the home - cleaning, general bathing and washing, and shampoo. Soap lasts a very long time in storage and a batch goes a fairly long way too. AND it can be very cheap to make, depending on what oils you use.
So hobbies can be both a passion for you, and serve a great purpose in your life too. Others that come to mind are food gardening, chicken keeping, bee keeping, furniture making and woodworking, (soy/beeswax) candle making, knitting, pottery and so many others. Just take a look somewhere like Pinterest for posts on Homesteading and you'll see many relating to skills you'd need (and can practise long before you get your first homestead) to run a successful, sustainable homestead. These are skills that can be very satisfying to learn and can become hobbies as you gain interest and mastery in them.
When you blend passion and purpose you truly have something amazing that many people strive for everyday. You have a skill that you can use to furnish your life in a very special way, as well as something you can pass on to your children in a world where many are returning to old-fashioned values to simplify life and fulfil that need we all have to 'create on purpose'.
Hobbies For Gifting
Hobbies are also great when it comes to giving gifts. Not everyone likes or appreciates a hand-made gift (and it's taken me many years to learn who in my circle to NOT spend hours making gifts for) but there are always going to be people in your life who absolutely adore something you have made for them. It's also a great way to give something meaningful to little ones - perhaps even something they can keep forever, like a charm bracelet, or a toy chest for example.
I am super blessed to have several friends and family members who not only love what I make for them, but who are also very creative and thoughtful themselves, and give me gifts I continue to treasure long after the occasion. Never underestimate the value you provide with a homemade gift given to the right person - they usually have a much longer lasting impact in ways you will probably never fully comprehend.
With a handmade gift you have the freedom to take inspiration from their homes or wardrobes, as well as their personality, and create something that is just for them. That means they get a gift that not only makes their heart sing because it's just perfect for their sense of style - and just what they needed/wanted because they haven't shut up about it for weeks! - but also because they appreciate your thoughtfulness, your time and your zone of genius.
You embed your energy into the creation and breathe life into it with every deliberate step towards completion. Truly, handmade objects carry far more energy and life, that can positively impact the person who receives it with gratitude, than something that was mass produced in a factory, or made by a miserable, suffering child on the other side of the world. Nothing that is made by hand with love and thoughtfulness will ever be another lifeless object in the back of a drawer (that the recipient won't even remember about when asked what they got for Christmas or their birthday).
Now of course that is not to say that even a mass-produced item can't be cherished by someone who is open-hearted and grateful. I have many things in my home that are purely utilitarian and not even very inspiring to look at, but after reading 'Spark Joy' by Marie Kondo, I can't look at anything in my environment and not appreciate it in some way. Here's a link to the book if you are interested - I highly recommend it. (Please note this is an affiliate link - thank you for your support!)
Making gifts can also be a very affordable way to give great gifts to a lot of people, such as during festive seasons. As long as the cost of materials + time spent does not = you actually end up exhausted and having spent as much as you would have had you bought something simple instead. Mass crafting of gifts can easily be as expensive - whether financially or in time spent - if not more, than buying gifts. So it's important to weigh your options carefully in this regard.
I've discovered that it's much more pleasant and well accepted to buy gift cards for those I know won't really enjoy a handmade gift and who love to shop for themselves, and spend the time making gifts for those who really appreciate it. It's much more fun to spend time making something you know someone will love, than to spend a long time making something you know will not be appreciated. That's a sure-fire road to resentment and frustration - let's not go there, okay? Okay :)
Hobbies are well known for being health-promoting, and I totally agree - depending on the hobby. You can't expect practising to be the Pie Eating Champion the 6th year in a row to equate to a healthy past-time!
As mentioned, I found sewing to be a bit hit and miss in terms of whether it was relaxing or stressful, but crochet on the other hand is so relaxing I treat it as therapy and many others do too.
Here's a brief article that talks about just 7 of these benefits, but what stands out for me is that hobbies are so good for the brain. In a time when everyone knows someone with dementia or Alzheimer's or are worried for their own mental health, just knowing that reading your favourite books, learning a new song on the guitar or even playing around with new colour combinations for your embroidery all promote good brain health, can be a great reason to take a break and work on your project for 30 minutes.
Of course, if one of your hobbies involves movement, such as dancing, gardening, playing a sport or even singing, you are also adding exercise to the mix - what a fun way to get your heart-rate up! Likewise, hobbies that connect you with nature; such as flower arranging, skiing (if you're lucky enough to do that often!), river rowing, or growing a herb garden; will also provide you with connection to the Earth that is vital in a healthy, fulfilling and joyful lifestyle.
All the health benefits of hobbies make them a very important aspect of self-care in my book. I consider them as important as taking your starflower oil capsules and eating a healthy diet for your body. The stress relief provided by a few minutes of doing something you love that makes you feel sound of mind, also brings great benefits to your physical body as it's common knowledge now that stress is the number one cause of nearly every single disease of the modern world.
You also breathe easier which signals to your body that you are safe - which de-activates the cascade of hormones raging through your body when you are in stress-mode - and provides your cells with more oxygen which improves your energy.
Another benefit I've noticed is that when I am sitting doing something I love, I don't get all stiff and awkward the way I do when I'm just hunched into the sofa watching tv. It's a not a totally passive experience, which means you don't end up just sluggish from sitting too long. This isn't as true for me when I'm typing a lot - I tend to slouch over the more "into it" I get, which leads to a bit of neck and shoulder strain, which is annoying, but I'm working on it.
Hobbies For Profit
Although this is technically beyond my field of expertise, many make a lucrative side-business from selling their handmade goods via websites like Etsy.com or notonthehighstreet.com and such like. I haven't sold many handmade things because I've never really been that intent on doing it (and I prefer a personal approach, such as via markets), so I'm not going to get into it here, but a quick google search will yield many articles on getting your passion projects out into the world in a way that will earn you some extra money.
But another way that your passions can earn you money (and something I AM interested in getting into soon) is by teaching your hobby or skill to others. Whether that is in a physical setting, such as holding a class in your local village centre, or making videos to post online, you can certainly make some extra money, build your confidence, and even build a community by putting your talents to use in this way. Take a look at Teachable.com, Udemy.com and similar sites - you can put up courses for free, they take a percentage, and boom! You have a passive income stream.
Now, as Sylvie McCracken says, "There's nothing passive about CREATING a passive income stream!" You will have a significant amount of work to do to get your course created and up on the site, but if you aren't in a huge hurry, and you take the time to do a great job, it's work that could easily bring you a great return on your investment AND provide you with long term income for essentially no more work from you. Think about anything you can do really well - something that others are always commenting on, ask you for or are even downright amazed that you can do - and you're onto a winner. Whether you are teaching the clarinet or how to make paper from recycled scraps, there is always a way to record it somehow and show others how to do it the way you do it.
But what if there's already many others teaching what you want to teach? Or perhaps, like me, you learned most it from the people who are online already? Who are you to teach the same thing? Or perhaps you feel you aren't qualified?
Never ever forget that your unique perspective on it could be just what someone (or a LOT of someone's!) was waiting for. No one else can do that thing in exactly the same way, with the same thought process behind it, and the same style or perspective you bring to it. It's your voice, your delivery of instructions, and your style they want. There's no such thing as competition - only collaboration. By bringing your unique take on that craft to the marketplace, you are fulfilling a need that the others already doing it could never fulfil.
And no one cares if you have a qualification or not, as long as you can demonstrate that you are good at it and can show them how to do it the same way. And if they do care, then you aren't the teacher for them and they can go off and find someone else. Don't let it worry you. What other's think of you is none of your business.
As for me personally, although I truly appreciate and enjoy buying things that have been handmade, I actually prefer to learn to make things myself - I have the creativity, the can-do attitude and the insatiable curiosity to attempt anything at least once - and I believe many others feel the same way. The DIY movement is huge and I believe you're more likely to earn a good profit from a low-cost video course on Teachable showing others how to make what you make, than trying to sell your wares online. Unless, of course, your wares are truly very unique and no one else is making them. In which case, sell away and charge well - you deserve to get paid properly for your amazing talents!
Well, I hope this post has encouraged you to think about hobbies as more than just a distraction from daily life, or a way to decompress. Your hobbies are a way to fulfil a need your soul has to create, to express itself, and to simply enjoy physical life. We are not here for very long at a time, so why not make the most of it and actually enjoy it?! Hobbies are a way to do that, without foregoing your responsibilities. Remember, you can't pour from an empty cup, and hobbies are a truly great way to fill your cup back up again.