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January 25, 2024 7 minutes to read ∙ 1600 words

Coach’s Counsel: Hobbies Will Keep You Sane and Healthy

Eleanor Southers

It is increasingly understood that engaging in a hobby can decrease depression, increase mental health, and yield long-term life benefits. I’m sure we all agree that including pleasurable activities in our daily lives is beneficial, but many people—especially lawyers—have a hard time finding hobbies they enjoy and fitting them into their busy routines.

What Are the Challenges of Including Hobbies in Your Life?

Common reasons not to take up a hobby include:

  • “I don’t have time.”
  • “It’s too expensive.”
  • “I need a partner, or I can’t stay with it.”
  • “I can’t find any hobby that I like.”
  • And on and on. . . .

Attorneys are especially guilty of finding their work so overwhelming that they can’t imagine finding time for a real hobby. These attorneys often look to health hobbies such as exercise to complete their daily routine. Unfortunately, as we age, the desire to compete in a marathon dwindles. Unless we look to more age-appropriate activities such as yoga and Pilates, our participation will shrink to watching sports TV.

I’m sure that when you look at your calendar, you can see “dead spots” of unused time. Or you can see other time commitments that could be shortened or dropped in favor of a hobby. A hobby has to be the kind of activity that invites you to spend time on it. It must be interesting to you in addition to adding some benefit to your life.

The Benefits of Hobbies

Before we begin looking at actual hobbies that might intrigue you, we need to look at what research has shown us about the other not-so-obvious benefits of hobbies.

Stress Reduction

Stress reduction is an obvious benefit for attorneys. One of the best studies was published by Girija Kaimal, Kendra Ray, and Juan Muniz in 2016. The participants’ cortisol levels were lowered by 75 percent after completing an art project. What was also interesting is that even those who had never done any art previously still lowered their cortisol levels.

Sense of Well-being

The positive effect of a hobby can be long-lasting. A 2018 study by Alan Ewert and Yun Chang showed that the effects of a creative hobby gave the study group a higher sense of well-being for days after finishing the project.

Improved Physical Health

It is obvious to doctors and the general public that physical activities are essential for optimum health. Going to the gym or exercising in conjunction with an app can be identified as hobbies. (As noted above, one needs to be cognizant of the need to keep the exercise appropriate for one’s age.)

For further information on the benefits of hobbies, you can look at the 2021 article “How Hobbies Improve Mental Health“ by Emma Parkhurst, where much of this information was found.

Finding Your Hobby

Now, let’s look at the fun stuff! What are the different kinds of hobbies that you may never have thought about? And what are the boring ones you have already tried, only to find “good” excuses to stop? Remember, hobbies are not work. They are pleasurable and interesting.

Sports

This includes all the usual sports you are familiar with but also unique sports such as curling, badminton, pickleball, ocean swimming, and almost anything where you are moving your body from one place to another. Some are team efforts or need partners. This is where the Internet and social media provide access to groups that can be joined. Some people find that groups or partners keep them more accountable.

Exercise

Formal exercise at the gym or in classes is tempting but easily dropped. One of the best exercises is playing with the kids or grandkids. Running around the park is easy and makes everyone happy. Yes, this can be a hobby if you make it into a routine and do it consistently.

Arts and Crafts

If you have never been interested in these, give them a try. It’s not limited to painting but includes knitting, pottery, collage, and other less obvious art-related interests, such as interior design. You could also support the creative arts by joining groups whose purpose is to back art projects or help return art instruction to public schools.

Music

Again, there are a wide variety of ways to enjoy music as a hobby. Play an instrument, join a group, go to concerts, etc. The important tenet is to organize your hobby so that it is ongoing and encourages you to explore new avenues of enjoyment.

Cooking

People who must cook every day for their families don’t find this hobby too impressive. People who don’t have to cook often find it fun to try out new recipes, watch cooking shows, and take classes. When it is pleasurable and a choice, it is often a very enjoyable hobby.

Animals

How about the time spent caring for dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals? Commit to a plan that includes accepting the responsibilities associated with the care of an animal or animals—feeding your pets, taking them to the vet, learning everything you can about them, and, best of all, playing with them every day. If you are unable to have an actual pet, you might want to advocate for abused animals. The important action is to formalize your pleasure into a hobby so it’s an ongoing part of your life balance.

Other Hobbies

You can find many tutorials on YouTube to introduce you to other hobbies, such as smartphone photography (Chris Orwig), flowers and flower arranging (Society of American Florists), computer programming (freeCodeCamp.org), learning a new language (too many sites to list, but start here for an overview of top YouTube channels), home repairs (Home Depot), and numerous other opportunities to expand your brain and become a more well-rounded person.

After looking through the suggestions above, consider pairing a health-centered hobby with a smaller, more interest-based hobby.

And remember that you may want to change your hobbies as you grow and mature in your needs. As retirement or other life-changing events occur in your life, a new hobby might be desired. Be sure to include more time for hobbies in your retirement plan to fill the hole that opened up when you stopped working. If you have ongoing hobbies that can be expanded at this time, it makes your entire life easier. The pandemic was a real eye-opener as attorneys scrambled to reconsider their work lives. Having ongoing hobbies that could be expanded helped many.

Final Questions to Help You Plan

Now, hopefully, I have convinced you to take a hard look at the hobbies in your life and decide if you would like to develop some new ones or enlarge the ones you have.

Here are some questions to help you sort this out:

  • Did you ever wish you could do something that you’ve never done?
  • What was your favorite subject in high school? College?
  • Did you ever admire some person who had a special hobby?
  • Did you ever wish that you had more pleasurable activities in your life?
  • Do you anticipate a major change in your life?
  • Do you frequently find yourself running out of conversation when you are asked about what you are interested in?

If any of these questions are beneficial to you, I invite you to continue to explore how you can increase your mental health, experience less stress, and become a more interesting person.

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Eleanor Southers

Professional Legal Coaching

Owner of Professional Legal Coaching, Eleanor Southers, 310/749-1944 [email protected], coaches attorneys across the United States at all stages of their development who want greater success and fulfillment in their careers. She does this on a one-to-one basis in person, by phone, or via Zoom, assisting the lawyer in identifying issues and creating pathways to overcome problems. She is the author of Be a Better Lawyer: A Short Guide to a Long Career (ABA, 2014).

Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 13, Number 6, January 2024. © 2024 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.