After more than 10 years working in the field of mental illness and addiction, I have become absolutely evangelical about the therapeutic benefits of a good hobby. Time and time again I have watched people who have struggled for years begin to flourish as they find an interest that brings joy and purpose to their life.
I am a particular fan of the quirky hobby. A few years ago I took up Renaissance fencing. This means that a few times a week I dress up in a floaty white shirt and pantaloons, and play with really big, ornate swords. It provides a great form of exercise, terrific mental stimulation and social connection. And it is really, really fun.
Any hobby can provide a range of benefits, but I found there are a few bonuses to having a quirky hobby:
So how do you find the right hobby for you? The best starting point is to think in terms of qualities rather than activities. When working with clients on this issue I start with the question “what’s missing from your life at the moment?” Particular qualities might be missing from life due to a lack of activity (eg. being unemployed) or due to an imbalance of activities (eg. lots of intellectual stimulation but very little physical activity, or lots of structure but not much creativity).
What's missing from your life?
Once you have identified the qualities that you want to bring into your life, you can go searching for hobbies that include these. It may take a bit of experimenting to find the best option for you, so jump in and have a go. Many clubs or classes will offer 'try before you buy' sessions. Resist the temptation to splurge on a whole lot of equipment or tools until you are sure you want to continue. You may be able to borrow or hire equipment, or start with cheaper or second-hand equipment, to test the concept.
Of course, there are literally hundreds of hobbies to choose from but here are a few examples to get you thinking:
Got a quirky hobby that I've missed? I'd love to hear about it!