Why we've let hobbies fall by the wayside, and why we should be bringing 'em back.
“I feel like my generation lost hobbies. Everything doesn’t have to be a hustle, side hustle, or money making enterprise. Sometimes it’s just fun to do something because it brings you joy, peace, relaxation or allows you to be creative. Let’s rediscover hobbies in 2020.” This tweet went viral as we rung in a new decade and if you’ve ever been asked the question ‘what do you do in your spare time?’ and found yourself stumped (eh, do happy hour G&Ts count?), then you’re probably its target audience.
A quick straw poll among my 25-35 year old friends reveals that few of us have things we’d really class as hobbies. We go to the gym, read sporadically, go shopping and even freelance on the side, but nothing that truly falls into the bracket of doing it for the fun of it. If anything, we spend more time glued to our phones than we do pursuing any sort of passion. Yet, more than one of my friends recently has admitted to wanting a hobby. They’ve spoke of joining a book club or learning to play an instrument, keen to find a fun pursuit outside of their day jobs that adds a certain something to their lives.
The want is there and yet we’ve let hobbies fall out of fashion. But why? Could it be that we don’t allow ourselves to be bored anymore?
In the past five years screen time has well and truly taken over. Any tinge of ennui is quickly quashed by a quick scroll on Instagram or a read of a lengthy twitter thread. We reach for our phones almost automatically in any moment of downtime. Thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Apple TV we have an endless stream of entertainment at our fingertips too – an American study found that TV is still the biggest pastime for around 80 percent of people. Who needs hobbies when we’ve a constant source of amusement and entertainment at the unlock of a passcode or the flick of a remote?
Of course, we do need pursuits we’re passionate about, but many of use have channelled those pursuits into money-making side hustles. Millennials are a part of the gig economy, often juggling their day jobs with other (potentially) profitable efforts. The general consensus is that if you’re good at something, you should find a way to get paid for it. Trouble is, to have hobbies, one must also have two things: time and money, and as it happens these two things tend to be in short supply for a generation of work martyrs trying to get by in an unstable economy.
Our spare time is being funneled into either attempting to switch off to beat burnout or channelling our talents into side gigs for extra coin, and it’s hard to have hobbies when you’re productive to the point of exhaustion. But perhaps this constant busy-ness is why we need hobbies even more.
Ciara, 31, abandoned all her hobbies during a period of stress, and it was only then that she began to fully understand their value. “I loved running, and cooking and I learned to play the ukulele but I was stressed so I gave all of it up to focus on working harder and saving for a house. Eventually I just stopped dedicating any time to doing things for fun. Any talent I had I used it for financial gain,” she recalls. Unsurprisingly, Ciara eventually burned out and realised she needed to bring the joy back into her life. “Going forward I’m finding challenges in areas that have no benefit other than enjoyment. I’m making friends in places that isn’t the work place. I’m skipping after work social events to make time for these hobbies, like evening classes and guitar lessons. And I’m filtering out the everyday things I enjoy doing, like walking and cooking, and looking at them more as hobbies as opposed to necessities, I guess you could say I’m just trying to find joy in things that have no purpose other than to bring joy!”
For Niamh, 28, it was a “mini existential crisis” that prompted her to realise just how much she needed a certain something extra. “I really did feel utterly stuck in my life; a kind of creeping fear that I was living out the sequel to Groundhog Day,” she explains. “I have a fantastic job, but I couldn’t help but feel like I needed…more. I knew that
I needed to look for satisfaction outside my 9-5 too. So, I came up with a list of things to do in my spare time that would hopefully spark some joy. I got a ukulele, I set up a book club, I started spin classes, I looked up new recipes to cook, I bought regular tickets to my local’s pub quiz. And y’know what? It truly lifted my mood.”
Niamh reckons this change has helped her break away from the hum drum of life. “A lot of the time, we can fall victim to the whole ‘going to work, coming home to TV, and going for drinks at the weekend’,” she notes. “There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re happy with that being your lifestyle.
But, if you need some more fulfillment, hobbies – good old fashioned wholesome hobbies – will go a long way in making you feel like you’re truly living.”
Psychotherapist Fiona Hall concurs. “I feel there is too much focus on the relentless pursuit of ‘more’. Sometimes people feel the need to be constantly ‘on’ with no downtime as everyone else on social media appears to be doing this,” she surmises. “I always encourage clients to take up a hobby where there is no gold medal or certificate at the end of it. Hobbies enrich your life, take your mind off your relentless thoughts, doubts and worries and soothe the soul. They are a great way to reconnect back to yourself, find out what you really, truly enjoy with no pressure. I believe hobbies are like regular spa breaks, they help you relax, regroup and ultimately help you to feel more invigorated and ultimately more creative.”
So how can you have a hobby in the hustle era? Put that phone down, log out from those work emails, switch off the TV, and make time for it. “Firstly, ask yourself is your potential new hobby the ‘aspirational you’ or the ‘real you’? Are you taking up a hobby because you feel you ‘should’ because it is the latest thing or because you want to?,” Fiona asks. “Be curious about yourself and see where it leads you. If you take up a hobby and realise it is not for you, it is not a mistake, it is something more you now know about yourself and it is something to build upon.” That’s the thing about hobbies, they don’t have to lead you anywhere, they’re just little pockets of joy in a world that can get messy, and that’s the beauty of them.