In reading the title of this article, “Why Hobbies Are Important in Midlife,” you may have been a bit taken aback. Hobbies? What a frivolous concept! Like I have time for that! I hear you—between driving the kids to soccer practice, thinking of something to make for dinner, and clocking hours at work, time for hobbies can seem sparse for middle-aged women.
While life is certainly busy, I’d like to challenge you to take a look at how much of your free time you’re spending watching Netflix, scrolling through social media, or surfing the internet. These things—while certainly okay in moderation—can create the illusion of busyness when done in excess. You might have more free time than you think and this time can be much better spent partaking in a hobby or two. In fact, you might be surprised to learn just how many benefits there are to engaging in hobbies after forty. Today, I’m going to talk about five of these benefits that will have you dusting off that tennis racket or ball of yarn!
1. Hobbies can help you cope with stress
While you might think that adding another activity to your life would create more stress, hobbies actually do the opposite. The key is to choose an enjoyable activity that distracts you from the stresses in your everyday life and brings you a sense of peace, accomplishment, or joy. It could be hiking, baking, yoga, gardening, weight lifting, knitting, painting, or anything else that captures your attention and takes your mind off of your personal troubles. I know that when I sit down and do a jigsaw puzzle I forget whatever is on my mind! Do you get the same result?
2. Hobbies stimulate your mind
Not only can learning a new skill be enjoyable, but it can also stimulate your mind and promote brain health. For example, one study suggested that middle-aged people who engage their brains through activities like reading, chess, or puzzles may be 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Learning a new skill, like playing the guitar or learning a new language, has been shown to have a similar effect. Not bad for reading a captivating New York Times Best Seller, right?
3. Hobbies can foster new social connections
Whether you join a club, take a class, or meet up with a friend for an activity, hobbies are great opportunities to meet and get closer to people who have the same interests as you. You might even end up connecting with someone who becomes a good friend or love interest! A couple of years ago, I joined a MeetUp group in Seattle called NW Breadbaking! I not only made some new friends but I learned a new skill!
4. Hobbies can increase your confidence and self-esteem
You know that feeling when you finally get the hang of something new? It feels empowering, right? Learning a new skill or engaging in something you’re already good at helps develop your confidence and pride in yourself and your abilities.
5. Hobbies prevent bad habits and wasted time
As the saying goes, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” In other words, free time can be a recipe for engaging in wasteful or negative activities (ahem—I’m looking at you smartphone). If you have enjoyable hobbies to fill up your free time, you’ll not only be preventing yourself from partaking in negative behaviors, but you’ll also be reaping all of the incredible benefits discussed in this article.
The bottom line
As you can see, there are many reasons why exploring hobbies after forty is important for your well-being. You might not like everything you try, and that’s okay. Simply explore different things and see what sticks. You never know what gifts a hobby might bring you!