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Coronavirus Disease 2019

It's Time for a New Hobby

Fight the COVID winter blues with a new active pursuit.

In much of the U.S., we are suddenly facing concurrent challenges of short, cold days, the end of the holiday season, and a surge in COVID-19 positivity rates. Although people are starting to get vaccinated and there is reason for optimism, many people's day-to-day lives are still marked by loneliness, monotony, or even a state of depression that is hard to see past.

It may well be that staying home and staying safe is all you can manage right now, and rightfully so. But, if you are feeling just a bit antsy, bored, or lethargic, if you spend an unhealthy amount of time doom-scrolling, or if you have even a small amount of free time, this may be the time to try a new hobby.

I've written before about the importance of hobbies. They reduce stress. They connect us with like-minded people we may not otherwise meet. They challenge us in new ways, engaging our brains and encouraging us to make new neural connections. They promote a state of flow, where we are optimally engaged in a pleasurable activity. And they can help us to be more efficient with our time and scheduling.

Having said that, I'd like to throw out a few other guidelines for meaningful and fun hobbies during this covid winter.

1. Get outside. Yes, it's cold in many parts of the country, but — as the saying goes — there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. Going for a solo or socially-distant walk, hike, or run is one of the safest things we can do these days. And simply getting out the door is often the hardest part.

2. Find new ways to connect. You may desperately miss your choir or book club, but are there other ways to connect with people through shared interests or passions? For instance, join the chess trend by playing with your partner or child. Do a crossword puzzle or a paint-by-number together. The idea is to make your leisure time more active, and to connect with the people in your household in a more meaningful way.

3. Think about the past. What things used to bring you a sense of playful joy or curiosity? What did you used to love but got away from as life got busy? Maybe you used to experiment with the guitar, paint with watercolors, or write poetry. Would you have any interest in reviving this hobby?

4. Think about the future. These covid times will end. Imagine that life. What kinds of skills would you like to bring into it? Perhaps you'd love to host a big dinner party. Maybe that future goal could motivate you to experiment in the kitchen and learn to cook some new things. Perhaps you'd like to take an international vacation. Maybe that could motivate you to start studying a language. If you indulge in these future fantasies, they might just point you to your new hobby.

Many people have argued that this is a time to be kind to ourselves, not a time to add more to our schedules or push ourselves even more than we normally do. This is true. But finding a new hobby shouldn't feel like work or pressure. It should be fun and playful. Approach it with an open mind and a sense of curiosity, and your covid winter may just seem a little — or a lot — more positive.

More from Jaime L. Kurtz Ph.D.
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