Hobbies are generally any interest you have, outside of work, that you can get a sense of development and achievement from. We derive a lot of happiness from our hobbies, and a large part of this comes from the fact that our particular hobbies are often something we have chosen to include in our lives. This can reinvigorate us in our daily lives by giving us an alternative place to devote energy to, or they can simply take our mind off the trials and stresses that any given day can bring. Because of this we can often term our hobbies as self-care as well as self-improvement. It’s worth thinking about because overall there may be more to your favourite past-times than you thought, and they might help to make us better people
There are many methods of self-care and self-improvement found through popular hobbies, gardening in particular is a fantastic example of an interesting hobby which is as good for you as it is for your garden. Other hobbies that lend themselves well to personal well-being and self-care include things like creative writing, painting, knitting, making music, fixing old cars and so on. These are interests you can have, simply because you enjoy them, but you can still benefit from in your personal life, whether by relieving stress, maintaining an active state of mind, or giving a sense of responsibility and achievement.
Why is gardening good for us?
One of my favourite analogies to how hobbies can influence and improve your life is Liv Boiree, noted science enthusiast and poker champ, discussing in her TED talk how the thinking that goes into Poker has bled over to and improved her decision making in real life. I think this is much the same principal with gardening. Gardening takes patience, you have to plant the seeds, and watch them grow before you can enjoy the flower. This attitude of patience is one that can immensely improve your personal life and well-being. One of the most obvious reasons people enjoy gardening is because it provides exercise and gets us outdoors, but it’s worth looking into just why that is good. The exercise achieved from a gardening session, though not as strenuous or full-on as going to the gym or taking a cross-fit class, can have benefits beyond the waistband. It has been shown to release happy hormones, these include serotonin and dopamine, while simultaneously lowering the level of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. This keeps us happy and relaxed, and shedding that excess energy can help with getting to sleep at night. Beyond that it is pleasant and stress reducing to be around nature in general. Some people even compare gardening to a meditative practice, as world famous psychologist Sigmund Freud once explained “Flowers are restful to look at. They have no emotions or conflict.”
Mindfulness and Progression
So we can see that gardening provides more than just a few hours in the sunshine, it is actually a tremendous activity for maintaining mental health, and regulating mood, whether you are an experienced gardener, or just enjoying your first gardening experience. Hobbies like gardening help us be more mindful of the present, have you ever noticed when performing an activity that engages you how time can fly past? The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” is a bit cliché nowadays but it makes a lot of sense. When we are truly engaged in an activity, we enter a mindset that scientists call ‘flow state’. This is a mental state where you aren’t thinking of anything but the task in front of you, when you have no worries about the past or future clouding your mind, and you are able to perform a given task at peak efficiency.
Another part of what is so alluring about any hobby is seeing the results, being able to see clear progression after sticking with it for a while, whether that means enjoying your reflection in the mirror after a few months at the gym, or being able to bash out a full song on a guitar after a few weeks practising. This is all great for self-esteem, but I would argue it goes deeper than that. People have a in-built need to progress and improve. We are hard-wired to want to become better at things, whether by competing against other people or just improving upon who you were yesterday. With gardening in particular, progression is very visible. You can see the fruits of your labour laid out quite literally on your doorstep.
So keep at it, whatever it is. Whether it’s gardening, singing, dancing, painting, reading, writing, or jogging. We don’t claim to have any of life’s big answers but the best way we know of to live is to be always cultivating and growing. Like they say, happiness is not a destination, it’s the journey.