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Quirky hobbies

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:

  • It makes for interesting conversation. Who would you rather sit next to at a dinner party? Someone who likes going to the gym and doing Soduko, or someone who makes chain mail armour, breeds alpacas, restores antique lutes or does Capoiera?
  • People see you in a different light. I love the response a quirky hobby gets: the open-eyed “really?!” and the genuine surprise and interest it generates. And I’m equally delighted to experience this on discovering the quirky hobbies of others: any stereotypes or assumptions I have are swept away and I am immediately intrigued by the vibrant, unique person in front of me.
  • It creates a sense of a secret life. When cool teenagers and hipsters are dismissing me as just another boring middle-aged mother, I console myself with the thought that my hobby is probably more interesting than theirs.
  • It lets you meet quirky people. The diversity of humankind can be a never-ending source of fascination, and a quirky hobby can bring you into contact with some amazing creatures (and a few flat-out oddballs).

 

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?

  • Structure
  • Spontaneity
  • Discipline
  • Companionship
  • Sense of belonging or being part of a team
  • Solitude
  • Creativity
  • Theatricality / drama
  • Intellectual stimulation
  • Novelty or variety
  • Relaxation
  • Comfort / a safe haven
  • Sensory engagement
  • Physical activity
  • Adventure / risk-taking / excitement

 


  • Challenge
  • Sense of purpose / accomplishment
  • Productivity
  • Sense of control
  • Sense of mastery or expertise
  • Beauty
  • Elegance / sophistication
  • Spirituality
  • Contact with the natural world
  • Altruism / helping others / making the world a better place
  • Peace and quiet
  • Fun
  • Playfulness
  • Freedom
  • Competition 

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:


 
Glass-blowing
 
Bellydancing
 
Capoeira
 
Calligraphy
 
Vintage fashion
 
Volunteer rescue
 
Rally car driving
 
Astronomy
 
Roller derby
 
Creating cryptic crosswords
 
Fencing
 
Lute
 
Orienteering
 
Bridge
 
Silversmithing
 
Bee-keeping
 
Falconry
 
Cosplay
 
Historical martial arts
 
Rare plant breeding
 
Circus skills
 
Historical re-enactment
 
Wildlife rescue
 
Improvised theatre
 
Bollywood dancing
 
Bonsai
 
Wire sculpture
 
Dragon boat racing
 
Ancient languages
 
Citizen scientist

Got a quirky hobby that I've missed? I'd love to hear about it!

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