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Why Did We Stop Having Hobbies?

It's 2021, people – let's make our lives a lil' more wholesome in simple ways.

Picture this: You’ve just returned to your dorm after a long day of classes and your on-campus job. You’re disheveled, mentally drained, and are looking forward to the few precious hours of free time that are now at your disposal. What do you do with it?

If you’re like me, you’ll probably spend it sucked into a TikTok hole or binging half a season of a new Netflix series, only to zone back into reality and realize, with a sense of dread, that it’s 1 a.m.

Why is it so easy to lean upon these passive activities in our downtime? The most reasonable explanation, it seems, is that we are all so collectively burnt out by our daily responsibilities that the easiest, and therefore most enjoyable, thing to do is to turn our brains off and mindlessly consume this content from our blanket burritos.

Attending college in New York City has shown me just how legitimate the claims are about the hustle culture that exists here. If you’re not being productive, you’re doing something wrong. How little sleep you got last night and how much caffeine you’ve consumed thus far today are major flexes, and god forbid you attempt to stay in on a Friday night to rest up and recover from the work and school week.

I’ve noticed that people online are not only talking about this unrealistic hustle, but also promoting that there are only two ways of living: the grind or mindlessly consuming the internet. Hence, why I am calling for the modern-day return of the hobby amongst our generation. There’s no wrong way to have a hobby, but here are two things to keep in mind:

Your hobby should activate your brain.

And I don’t mean you have to run 5ks or rock climb in your spare time. As long as your mind is actively working on something (as opposed to passive scrolling), it will be infinitely more fulfilling than watching IG reels. Personally, I am not a very creative person, nor am I athletic. But, I still have hobbies that work my brain, such as reading contemporary fiction books during my downtime, journaling about my day/future aspirations/general feelings, and even cranking out a shitty poem or creative story now and then.

If you are lucky enough to be blessed with an artistic gene, then painting, photography, pottery, crocheting, bookbinding, and scrapbooking are all wonderful creative outlets! And if you’re more athletically oriented, long-distance running, hiking, or taking dance classes are all great options to pursue. The key is that your mind is stimulated and you feel a sense of personal fulfillment from the hobby.

Your hobby should NOT be commodified.

Perhaps this is a #hottake, but to have a truly self-indulgent hobby requires that you avoid commodifying that activity. I think this is of the utmost importance in this capitalistic society we live in, where we feel as though our own personal enjoyment is not enough to validate doing something, that making money must be somehow involved in the process. Today, it seems as though for every niche creative venture, there exists an Etsy shop. Not everything has to be a side hustle to be legit; you can create for the sake of creating! Allow yourself to fully sense the relaxation and peace your hobby brings you.

I already know what you’re thinking: I do NOT have the time to add something else to my already-full plate. We’ve learned to structure our lives around school and career-related stuff, many of us feel like we don’t have a spare second (myself included). However, if you take the time to look at your weeks and months on a larger scale, you can designate small pockets of time to commit to a hobby. I swear by my planner from BlueSky, where I map out my month’s due dates and deadlines. Even if you have two free hours between your morning and afternoon class on Fridays, for example, that could be an ideal time to sit down with a new read, make progress on a sketch or painting, or go for a power walk.

It may sound trivial or even ironic to block out time for personal enjoyment, but this is the best way to fully develop time for your hobby/hobbies and commit to them. It’s almost like an investment for your own well-being.

If you need any more convincing to pick up a low-commitment hobby, there have been various studies done that show that hobbies lower stress and depression levels, help you get better sleep, and improve your overall happiness and mental well-being. Hobbies actually reduce your burnout by directing your time away from school/work related responsibilities, and also won’t keep you up at night and wired, as too much blue-light exposure from Netflix marathons tend to do.

Even if all this article did was make you aware of how much time you spend on your various screens, it has served its purpose. If it’s reminded you of that one hobby “you’ve always wanted to try out”, even better!

This fall, let's commit to channeling our creativity into fun outlets, fueling our minds and spirits, and just generally feeling alive through the simple pleasures of ~hobbies~. I rest my case.


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