We've talked in the past about the hobbies that Americans enjoy, hundreds of them, from collecting thimbles and beer bottle labels to building elaborate model railroad layouts. We know that activities like painting landscapes or talking with other amateur radio enthusiasts around the world are relaxing and satisfying, whenever people can fit them into their increasingly busy lives.
But now scientists are finding that hobbies are really, really good for your health as well, even if you hardly lift a finger to enjoy them.
A Harvard University medical school professor, for instance, told the New York Times that hobbies not only stimulate what he calls the feel good area of the brain (it has a scientific term we won't bother with), Dr. Carol Kauffman says hobbies also sharpen your focus, help you think more clearly, and enhance your creativity. When you're really engaged in a hobby you love, you lose your sense of time and enter what's called a "flow state," she told the newspaper. And that restores your mind and energy.
In turn, that high level of concentration increases your performance in other, less-pleasurable, tasks.
A psychiatrist in Florida noted that this high concentration level induces the brain to release chemicals like endorphins and dopamine. You become emotionally and intellectually more motivated, Dr. Gabriela Cora reports.
Hobbies make people feel good about themselves. After all, managing complex projects such as building a model sailing ship inside a tiny bottle is quite an accomplishment. You may be feeling inadequate in other parts of your life. But you're a big success as a ship-in-a-bottle artisan.
So the lesson is evident. We would all perform better, and feel wonderful about ourselves, if someone would pay us to spend 40 hours a week on our hobbies, and squeeze in work whenever we have a spare moment.