Whether you are recently retired or have been for years, it can be hard to turn off the part of your brain that wants to keep staying busy. And while images of retirement usually show seniors relaxing on the beach or traveling in an RV, we all know retirement isn’t a vacation day, every day.
So how do you stay busy without clocking in at work? Research suggests picking up a hobby.
The lost art of having a hobby
In our pre-retirement years, it’s easy to dismiss the idea of having hobbies—there is simply too much to get done! From going to work to taking care of a family to running a household, there are many variables that contribute to a lack of free time.
And over the course of a few generations, this “too busy” mindset has spilled over into our communities. From recreational sports leagues to groups like PTAs and civic clubs, there has been a significant decrease in community engagement. In fact, a recent report revealed that nearly 70% of organizations are struggling to grow membership.
And yet, the numbers show that it isn’t so much that we don’t have free time, but rather, it is how we choose to spend it. For instance, adults spend an average of 38 minutes a day on Facebook and those aged 60 and older clock in over four hours of screen time a day (including checking social media and watching TV).
All this time we dedicate to our devices can be channeled into a new hobby that offers many benefits to our overall well-being. If you need some hobby inspiration, check out some of these ideas to get you started!
Whether you prefer to shuffle up and deal or bust out the box of an old family favorite, card and board games are wonderful hobbies for a variety of reasons. For everyone gathered at the table, games can improve memory, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, decrease blood pressure and sharpen fine motor skills. What’s more, gathering to play with friends and family brings laughter, which has a multitude of mental health benefits.
And games don’t always have to be of the board and card variety. Though video games were once thought to be for children, the average age of a video gamer nowadays is 35 years old and according to a recent survey, 15% of gamers are aged 55 and older! There are many games that are designed to meet older age groups and can offer improvements to your mental health. For instance, the gentle farming simulator “Stardew Valley” has been proven to help calm anxiety and there are many puzzle titles that offer several of the same cognitive boosts as completing a jigsaw puzzle.
There are fewer things that offer a greater mental health boost than being in nature. In fact, a recent study of 20,000 people found that those who spent just two hours a week in a green space (such as a garden or park) experienced a significant boost in physical and mental health. The best part? The two hours can be spread across the week in any way (two hours at once, 17 minutes a day, etc.) and the benefits can still be achieved.
As journalist Richard Louv said, “Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive functioning.” And you don’t have to look much further for nature than your own home. Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a small porch, you can reap the benefits of the outdoors by starting a garden. For even more of a well-being boost, you can grow these 10 plants that can enhance your mind and body!
Cooking or baking
Many people find great comfort in the act of cooking or baking and it is easy to see why. It can fill one’s heart with joy to create meals for their loved ones, which is always good for a mental health boost. But the bigger reason may be tied to the fact that working in the kitchen subconsciously has us practicing mindfulness.
When we cook or bake, we are engaging all five senses. We are watching the texture of the batter as it mixes, smelling the roast as it cooks, tasting the soup for flavor, touching the dough to test consistency and listening for the sizzle of the pan. Tuning into our senses is the very act of mindfulness, which helps improve concentration, reduce anxiety and balance our emotions.
Now before you say, “I am bad at dancing,” hear us out! Dancing is an excellent activity for retirees because it hits on three key aspects of your well-being. First, it is a great form of exercise that doesn’t require much of a strain on the body. Second, the act of dancing offers several ways to sharpen cognitive function, including keeping with the beat and following steps. Finally, dancing with others encourages socializing, which is a key contributor to our mental health.
You don’t even have to attend an in-person class! If you’d rather stay closer to home, you can grab your partner or friends and try lessons online with a free YouTube account.
How to find people to share hobbies with
Sure, hobbies are great as solo activities. But communing with others who share your interests not only makes hobbies even more enjoyable, but also offers the physical and mental health benefits that come with being with others.
If you are internet savvy, there are several websites that can help connect you to like-minded people, such as Meet Up and groups on Facebook. You can also check with your area’s parks and recreation department, senior centers and listings in your community newspaper or magazines to see what kind of groups and classes are offered.
The bottom line: Whether you are recently retired or have been for years, starting a hobby can offer many improvements to your overall well-being. Try a few different things and see what speaks to you: you will reap the most benefits if it is a hobby you truly enjoy.