Pallavi Pinakin examines the social and cerebral values of taking on a hobby

Adults have given hobbies the cold shoulder in the 21st century. Ask people about their hobbies today and you’ll find that many simply shrug their shoulders while others reply with ‘watching television,’ ‘sleeping’ or ‘Facebook’ – and some of them mean it half-seriously!

How did this happen?

It was only a few decades ago that everyone seemed to have a favourite pursuit, whether it was an individual passion like painting or baking, or a team pursuit like rugby or playing in a band.

With the advent of longer work hours, easy internet access and smartphones, we have become lazier and less inspired. Passive pastimes like browsing social media or watching a TV programme is easier than engaging in any meaningful activity.

This lethargy is completely understandable; after all, we’re busier than ever before. But it’s time for us to rediscover the joys and (very real) benefits of hobbies.

Be it trekking, acting, reading or gardening, regularly engaging in an activity is healthy – both personally and professionally.

Here are some of the rewards a hobby offers – besides pure enjoyment, of course!

CONFIDENCE Spending time engaged in something you love and finding that you are good at it is an invaluable driver of self-esteem. Whether it’s an old passion or a new one, practising and improving a skill makes us feel great about ourselves.

The resulting confidence extends far beyond the sphere of the activity; it also makes you more likely to take on challenges at work, and builds belief in your ability to achieve newer and tougher goals. Ergo when you learn to play a new chord on the guitar, you also become more courageous about volunteering yourself for that new project at work.

BALANCE Hobbies create a sense of deep personal fulfilment. Between work and relationships, many people have little time for themselves. Leaving aside a few hours for something you enjoy brings pleasure and pride that is very different to your professional, family and social life.

It is also invaluable to maintaining a balance in life that consists of four spheres: work, home, the community and self. So go ahead and give yourself a place on the schedule.

RELAXATION There’s a Zen proverb about meditation that’s equally applicable to hobbies: ‘You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.’ What better way to de-stress from the cares of the week than plunging wholeheartedly into the pursuit of your choice?

Picking up a hobby is a fabulous way to relax and refresh your weary spirits, and this would lead to better workplace productivity and greater job satisfaction. Less stressed professionals are better equipped to deal with the demands of their job, and avoid workplace catastrophes like burnout and breakdowns.

MOTIVATION When scientists studied patients with and without hobbies, they found that those with hobbies ‘tended to have more drive and interest in things and other people.’ In other words, they demonstrated ‘a more active orientation to life.’

Cultivating a beloved interest fuels your drive to do better and opens up your mind. And this motivation naturally spills over into your work and personal life. A hobby also offers you the added bonus of pursuing a passion realistically alongside your regular job so you can have the best of both worlds.

So if you find yourself uninspired at work, consider signing up for that photography workshop you’ve been thinking about – it might just give your career a new lease of life.

INTELLIGENCE No matter what kind of activity – physical, cerebral or creative – you take up, challenging yourself in a non-professional context has a hugely positive impact on your brain.

Cycling, yoga, dance, cricket… any physical exercise enhances your cognitive performance. Engaging in stimulating mental activity helps you become a better problem-solver. Creative pursuits like art and music strengthen your out-of-the-box thinking skills.

INTERACTION Broadening your horizons could mean meeting a whole new group of interesting and like-minded people. While it’s easier to form a new social circle if your hobby is group-oriented (such as singing in a choir or joining a sports team), you can forge new connections even if your interest is more solitary in nature.

For instance, members of book clubs first read the assigned book on their own and then meet to share their views; and cooking enthusiasts experiment in their own kitchens and organise pot-luck dinners.

As adults, it can be difficult to meet people outside work and existing social circles. Engaging in your passion can open the door to great interactions and new friends. Expanded social networks can be valuable for work, whether you’re looking for new partners or fresh career opportunities.

Form your own circle of like-minded friends or try social applications like Meetup to find a relevant group.