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Developing hobbies

CHECK ANY newspaper these days and you will find scores of photographs, write-ups, and advertisements on summer camps. Details from glass painting to basketball can all be learnt by enrolling with different organisations that conduct these camps. The problem is that the camp is largely for children.

india Updated: May 30, 2006 14:55 IST

CHECK ANY newspaper these days and you will find scores of photographs, write-ups, and advertisements on summer camps. Details from glass painting to basketball can all be learnt by enrolling with different organisations that conduct these camps. The problem is that the camp is largely for children.

Most adults who take the responsibility of dropping and picking up children from these places often think why such activities did not exist while they were growing up. Worse, why their parents never initiated them to take up something. Does that mean that we adults are too grown up to start developing hobbies and interests on our own?

The conclusion of a 10-year study into causes of happiness was that the best guarantee of long-term happiness is ‘serious leisure’- a hobby or activity that involves your whole being. It does not matter what it is as long as you find it challenging and absorbing. Researchers ranked activities in terms of feeling good. Dancing topped the list.

The explanation for this is that dancing combines the three important ingredients of exercise, music and social contact. Other high scoring activities include team sports and involvement with a religious group because of the social contact.

Another branch of research has shown that caring for a pet gives happiness, makes you feel wanted, and brings additional meaning to life. Simply stroking a pet or watching a fish swim in an aquarium can reduce heartbeat, blood pressure, and levels of stress.

Developing new interests involves taking risks or being prepared to explore the unknown and break away from your ‘comfort zone’. If you join a new club or take a course in dance you should expect to feel frustrated initially.

You will have to get to know new people and may feel that you are not involved or do not fit in. Satisfaction and pleasure may not be instantaneous, and you must be ready to persevere until the situation improves. Be confident, and do not worry about what others might think.

For example, if you join a singing class, you might find yourself thinking, “They don’t like my voice” or “People will think I should be home with the children and family, not enjoying myself in a class of young people.” Challenge these irrational thoughts. Developing new interests requires a positive approach. Even if things do not work out, you need to be able to tell yourself, “It’s not a failure because I have learned something”.

Plan your interests
This simple exercise will help you decide how you want to spend your free time.

1.     List 10 activities that you have enjoyed over the last 10 years.

2.     List 10 activities that you do not do, but that you would like to pursue.

3.     Make yourself a promise now to do one activity from each list in the next month. Write down what you will have to do to fit in these two activities.

If we have no hobbies or interests to absorb us or challenge us, we get stressed, depressed and bored. Do not be tempted to think that the activities that interest you are simply not available- for, if you look carefully and talk to people you will be sure to find one.

If we are not careful, a vicious cycle can develop in which the less we do, the more miserable we feel, and as we become more unhappy we are less willing to take risks and take up new activities.

(The author is a psychologist and a professor of Psychology and Social Work at BSSS. He can be contacted at drvinaymishra
@rediffmail.com)