Back Up On The Hobby Horse

Who else is tired of reading about COVID? I know I’m tired of writing about it, but unless you guys want me delving into politics (and I’m pretty sure none of us wants that to happen… on either side of this newsletter) I think we’ll keep it light. As light as you can get when discussing COVID-19.

The work shutdowns and the loss of social gatherings gave a lot of us the opportunity to pick up new hobbies, or revisit old ones, this past year. Remember the run on flour and pre-packaged yeasts last April? Hopefully your sourdough starters had—or are having—a better life than the foul gooey concoctions my daughter and I threw out half-a-dozen times last spring. But whatever the hobby, it probably did you some good.

According to the American Heart Association in an article they published last October which you can read here, hobbies provide a great deal of benefits outside of keeping you busy. But being busy is good. James Kaufman, a psychology professor, cited the psychological benefits of getting caught up in a hobby. “This is not shockingly different from what they call runner’s high, or what mountain climbers say they feel.”

The article also references two older, yet still-important, studies. The first was from the Annals of Behavioral Medicine in 2015, and showed that leisure activities improve mood, improve & lower stress levels, and lower heart rates. The second, also from 2015, was a report from Alzheimer’s & Dementia (the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association) that showed consistent mental & physical activity produced growth in the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that controls executive functions, behaviors, and thinking—as well as the hippocampus, which is important to memory.

So if you picked up a hobby during the last year, stick with it if you can. If you’re looking for something new to do, try a bunch and see what sticks. I’m entering an old & nerdy hobby this month, taking the test for an amateur radio license (my old walkie talkies weren’t cutting it in the woods, and more power=license). It doesn’t get me moving, or out of the house at all, but… it’s still good for something, right?

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