Hobbies are good for you and have “psychic rewards”

  • Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2013 10:27 a.m.

In a 2007 article in the New York Times, author Eilene Zimmerman mentions that doing things that make you feel good helps to activate an area in the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This area controls how we feel about life.

Activities that we enjoy stimulate certain areas of the brain, and we feel happy. Hobbies are one such activity.

Painting and other forms of artistic expression may enhance our sense of well being.

It has been shown that physical activity and exercise may extend life, but cognitive “exercise” is also healthy.

This could include reading, playing musical instruments, board games, writing, doing crossword puzzles and many other forms of mental gymnastics.

These activities may help to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of dementia.

It may be that if you feel you are solely defined by your job, you may “raise your chances of anxiety, depression and burnout.” Hobbies are thought to help enhance self-esteem. This may help you to become more focused and self-confident. If your creativity is enhanced, good things can happen.

Restoring your mind’s energy may help you reach a higher level of concentration. This in turn helps to raise certain neurotransmitters such as endorphins and dopamine which help to keep you focused.

It has been reported that relying on your role at work to foster self-esteem may not fulfill all your needs, but, if your “identity is varied, then you can reflect on your success in other areas.”

Therefore a hobby can help you to be better at your job by inspiring ideas that help you to be more creative. In other words, what you do in your free time could affect your overall life.

Recently I have been asking my patients if they have a hobby. There are several artists, woodworkers, needlepoint experts, railroad enthusiasts, naturally many readers, one beekeeper, and others with interesting hobbies. In general patients with hobbies seem to be well rounded and less stressed.

Did you know that Samuel F.B. Morse was an accomplished portrait painter long before he invented the telegraph and Morse code? Find a hobby if you don’t have one. What happens if you suppress your creativity?

David Keisler is a gastroenterologist and internist in Aiken.

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