The Importance of Hobbies in Dealing With Anxiety

As the new year (and decade) started hitting, like most others, I began to reflect on 2019 – what went well, what didn’t, what I accomplished, and what I want to improve. And in talking with my therapist recently, I’ve decided the big overarching thing in my life that I want to improve is my anxiety.

We talked through some strategies to help me stay in the present moment when my mind wanders into the future and gives me all these “what-if” scenarios. She asked me what I enjoyed doing in my spare time. Some of my hobbies are playing music, running, yoga, and reading. But there were times last year where I would avoid doing any of those things for long periods of time because I was too wrapped up with all these negative thoughts, sometimes about a hobby of mine. A friend would send me a video of him playing a song he just learned, and I would think “they’re so much better than me, I’ll never be that good.” Or I would be in a yoga class and someone near me would be doing a difficult move with ease and I would think “I’ll never be able to do that, what’s the point?”

So she rephrased the question and asked, “what do you do that helps you focus on the present moment?” And I had to think about that for a minute. But what I realized was that when I’m not thinking negatively of myself and allow myself to be fully present, I really enjoy all my hobbies. And afterwards I feel relaxed, at ease, and accomplished. The conversation then shifted to the purpose of having hobbies outside of work or school. We all deal with stress and we all need a “recovery period,” especially those dealing with anxiety or depression, where those illnesses force our minds into dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. If we can find something that makes us focus on the present moment, whether it’s something active like yoga, running, or kickboxing, or something less intense like mediation, writing, or drawing, our minds will be able to go to a much better place.

What are your hobbies? Do you know people who have similar hobbies? Have you ever compared yourself to them? How do you feel about your hobbies?

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