Software engineers understand the importance of deep work. To write the best code, you have to focus intensely for a reasonably long stretch of time. That takes significant effort, and in order to do so consistently, you have to alternate your deep work sessions with periods of deep relaxation. Deep work, relax, deep work, relax.
On the surface, it may look easy to relax. You simply don't work. It doesn't really matter what you do specifically, as long as it's not work. Right? Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, haven't we all at some point spent our free time in such a way that we felt worse after than we did before? Like after a particularly intense bout of doomscrolling?
The point is, it matters how you spend your free time.
This is where a hobby comes in. It is a criminally underrated form of relaxation. But it's also much more than that. In this article, we will discuss what a hobby is, why it's important, and how you can find the right hobby.
What Is a Hobby?
A hobby is an activity that you do for pleasure. A purposely broad definition that encompasses everything from beekeeping to horse-riding to extreme ironing (yes, really). There's nothing too weird. If you can think of it, it probably exists as a hobby.
While it's not uncommon for someone to turn their hobby into a career, most people's hobbies are done outside of work, with no intention beyond learning and having fun. Many people have multiple hobbies to unwind and relax.
Why Is a Hobby Important?
A hobby is uniquely positioned to help you relax after a day of work. It is more than just a time-filler. It's something that engages you, gets you excited, and gets your mind working. It's a great way to forget about the everyday stress of work and household chores.
But the benefits run deeper than that. When you have a hobby, it enriches your life. Your identity expands to incorporate your hobby. You're no longer a software engineer; you're also a runner, a painter, an extreme ironer. When you're struggling at work, it won't feel as painful because it's not your whole identity.
A hobby also reduces the time you spend on bad habits like endlessly scrolling social media or constantly checking the news to read about topics that lose their relevancy in a matter of days, if not hours.
Finally, a hobby is also a wonderful way to meet new people. It can be hard to make new friends as an adult. Hobbies introduce a natural way to form new bonds over an activity you both enjoy. Strong friendships are a key component to a long, fulfilling life, and many hobbies indirectly but strongly contribute to that.
How to Find the Right Hobby
When you don't currently have a hobby, there are a few ways to discover what you're likely to enjoy doing in your free time. Firstly, think of what you loved doing as a kid. When you were wild and free and rarely did anything naturally unless you really loved it.
Chances are you still have those core interests. Did you cycle around the house all day? Try cycling as a hobby. Did you climb in trees all the time? Try bouldering. Were you always walking around in a forest? Try hiking.
Secondly, think of what stores you're naturally attracted to or what you buy as a guilty pleasure. Enjoy browsing bookstores? Find yourself browsing guitars on Amazon? Love visiting a board game store? See what attracts your attention and follow your curiosity.
Thirdly, think of who you admire and why you admire them. Do you know someone who takes the most beautiful wildlife pictures? Someone who's in incredible shape? Someone who impresses with their deep knowledge about movies? Often, your admiration masks a desire, a yearning to be like them. As such, the hobbies of those you admire are worth exploring.
For any of these tips to work, you have to be willing to try. Finding a hobby requires experimentation and some perseverance. As with anything, you'll be terrible when you try something new for the first time. That's okay. A large part of the joy from a hobby comes from getting better at it. So keep an open mind as you try to cultivate a new hobby. Finding a fulfilling hobby is like finding a treasure chest full of gold. Totally worth it.