For decades, having hobbies was a foreign concept to me. Doing mindful things in my free time wasn’t possible because there was no free time. I spent so much of my time surviving that I wasn’t living. I knew how to work and how to party but with nothing in between. But now that my repressed trauma has surfaced, and I’ve had some time to recover, I’m finding myself with so much free time. Time that used to be spent fighting or crashing is now mine. And I’m learning to take in the new ways I can fill my free time. One hobby at a time.
It started with my husband and me doing puzzles. When we’d have a weekend with nothing going on, we’d start one and keep it around for the week, adding pieces as we walked by—while we were waiting for the coffee to brew or for dinner to cook. It became something I started looking at in place of my phone. And I realized how much joy it brought me to have a constant project to work on. To have something to go to throughout my day. Something soothing. Safe. And mindful.
So knowing I’d have some time off from work over the holidays, I prepared myself with some new hobbies. I bought an adult coloring book, colored pencils and materials to make a vision board. And having two new hobbies saved me from falling into the depression that usually happens when I have too much unstructured time. A depression that I’m prone to around the holidays.
Like one night when my husband was going somewhere, and my plans got canceled, and I found myself all alone with nothing to do. A dangerous situation for me to be in, but I had my hobbies to save me. I got to work on my vision board, and it not only helped my mood, but time flew. The way it does when you’re having fun. As I found each image, as I envisioned each thing I wanted in my life, I found myself being extremely present—in the moment—joyfully planning for my future.
My adult coloring book also saved me from falling into a depression. Times over the holidays when I’d usually turn on mindless TV or restlessly try to read, I colored instead. I put my music on and simply colored. Adding brightness to an otherwise dull image. Adding life. And in doing so, I felt inspired. I felt present. I felt whole.
I learned that when doing a mindful activity, there’s space to listen to yourself. There’s time to hear your innermost thoughts. And there’s a peace in being present. A peace that I don’t find when staring at a screen. A peace that I’m finding through my new hobbies.
If you feel there’s no time for a new hobby, or if you’d like to get started but don’t know how, here are a few tips to help:
- Take inventory of how you spend your free time. What do you do when you’re not working? Are you constantly working without giving yourself a break? Are all of your breaks consumed by screens? Write down each part of your day and how you spend it, then see where you can fit in time for a hobby.
- Replace one screen activity with something without a screen. Try to find at least five to 10 minutes each day that you can devote to a non-screen activity and make that the time for your new hobby. For example, I used turn on the TV if I had free time, but now I’m coloring or working on a puzzle instead.
- Keep a journal of hobbies. Write down all the things you’ve ever wanted to try. Then pick something new every month and try it. If a new hobby stresses or overwhelms you, try to find something that brings you joy.
- You can also journal as you engage in each hobby. Write what comes up for you. I find that, while doing something like coloring, my mind is free and my thoughts are active, so there’s a lot of good insight to capture in writing.
- Have a goal for how much time you’ll work on your hobbies each week. Maybe you can only fit in five or 10 minutes a day, but remember, every little bit is helping you be mindful.
I wish you all the joys of having hobbies. May they save you from feeling depressed and help you be mindful.
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Photo by Magda Ehlers