Your hobbies suck or, Why you need to seek better joy.

Yep, you read that right, your hobbies suck. I’m not apologising for it because it is true. You play with your kids? Spend time with your partner? Garden? Go to the gym? Wow, what a rule breaker. Your hobbies suck, they really do.

I often sit across the room in therapy with a client and I ask them what they do for fun and invariably they say that they ‘love to spend time outside’ or ‘I exercise’ or ‘What’s that’. This is often after a wry grin and a laugh because, as an adult, we don’t often think about fun, we might have passive activities that help us wind down (like TV or reading) but as for fun, forget it.

Why do your hobbies suck? Because most of the things that people call hobbies are not hobbies, they are are obligations. So really they are hob-ligations, they are things that you call a hobby, but are really things you can’t go without doing. Much like the washing, or mopping the floors they are a demand on your time which will create a sense of frustration if it is not done.

Hobby: an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure

When I am talking to clients about mental health I want them to be able to identify what they can do to derive some pleasure from their lives. To set aside their anxieties, fears and problems and allow some space for the brain to process, or see things from a different angle. Engaging in hobligations is not that. Hobligations must be done in order for us to feel accomplished and that is perfectly reasonable. As adults there is just shit that needs doing and we understand that.

So what’s the difference?

Let’s look at a hobligation like exercise, what happens if you don’t do it for a week? You might feel that you have too much energy, your sleep may suffer, you may be irritable or annoyed at the people around you. So while it does provide you with physical health benefits, the removal of it leads to negative consequences.

On the other hand a hobby, as referenced in the quote above is done for pleasure and not for the removal of a negative emotional or physical state. Let’s look at drawing, if we don’t do it for a week, we are unlikely to feel negative effects (and if we do, then it is a hobligation). We can always come and go with it and there is no formal commitment to it. If this is something that creates joy for you, then it is a hobby.

The key here is joy and lack of negative consequences. Anything can be an obligation/hobligation depending on our stage in life, or what we are seeking from an activity. The key is to ensure that you have a good mix of obligations, hobligations and hobbies in your week.

So I’ll ask again, what are your hobbies?

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