A New Year brings the opportunity to say yes to trying something new! Take inspiration from these stories of hobbies that turned into adventures in health, happiness, and life-changing decisions.
When the calendar swings from December to January, there’s a certain inevitability in deciding that, once again this year, everything will be different! We’ll learn swing dance, or perfect our Spanish, or finally move to Hawaii like we’ve been planning forever.
And while we might not have to pull up stakes to become happier humans, it does seem that taking up a hobby is beneficial for our health. A study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine showed hat people who took part in leisure activities, no matter if it was cross-stitching or trail running, became 34 percent less stressed and 18 percent less sad while they did so, and the calming effect lasted for hours.
For me, diving into a new interest came not at the turn of the year but in the height of summer when I tried a Yin yoga class, a gloriously gentle form of practice that mostly revolves around long, slow, prop-supported stretches and deep breathing.
After years of unshakeable knowledge that being a Lululemon-wearing yogi definitely wasn’t for me, I’ve become hooked on this meditative form of yoga, which found me at a point in my life when being calm and counting breaths was just what I needed.
This summer also had me drooling in envy over friends’ beautiful photos of preserves on Facebook, so I decided to give it a go and I loved it! I wished I’d done it years ago, but like so many things we miss out on in life, it looked a little too hard and a little too easy to mess up, so I gave up before I’d even begun.
Fear of failure?
I asked Farzana Jaffer Jeraj, motivational speaker and author of I Cheat at Meditation (icheatatmeditation.com, 2016) for her advice on fighting fear of failure: “I believe that failure can be beautiful. Excitement and anxiety create the same response in our bodies, but we perceive one as negative and one as positive. If you believe in a journey of growth and learning, there is no failure, just figuring it out as you go along.”
Could just be learning
There’s something wonderfully liberating about the thought that failure could just be learning. If you open yourself to that, the world shifts a little and becomes a little lighter. Letittia King agrees: she recently packed up her life and moved from Calgary to Ontario to attend the Wine Business Management graduate program at Niagara College.
“Working in Calgary is where I found a true passion for wine. My hospitality job was amazing; however, I wasn’t challenged.” After taking on the role of teacher’s assistant for the Wine Spirit Education Trust Program, King applied to grad school. “I was accepted six weeks out from the start date. I knew it would be a huge life adjustment, but I knew it was the best decision for me.”
And although the sommelier side of the wine industry was her initial attraction, as she gained more knowledge, she discovered a whole new field of interest: “I truly found love in what goes into the artwork in my glass, the production, philosophy, expression … I could go on and on!
“This was the side I wanted to pursue. I’m still fighting off the homesickness, adjusting to being a student and being broke, but I already had a ‘dream come true’ experience: spending a day harvesting with one of my favourite producers,” says King.
It doesn’t have to change your life
But not all change has to be profound, and every hobby doesn’t have to change your life. William Currie from Vancouver took up fermenting recently. “I originally became interested from making a sourdough starter. I got into making my own bread, but it wasn’t till I started researching online that I fully understood how it was made.
“The live microbes really interested me, and I grew my own starter, which then turned into sauerkraut. My next step is kimchi; I’m learning with some great videos of Korean grannies on YouTube!”
I know from the quiet joy I feel in looking at my own jars of preserves how rewarding this process can be. Currie agrees: “I guess I realized there was a whole process of pre-industrial preservation that I wasn’t aware of, that people had been doing for centuries.
“Stepping away from super-processed and industrially processed foods feels good—and of course, it’s very delicious! I guess it’s like having a pet on your counter—an extremely low-maintenance one!”
3 hobbies that help our mental health
Join a choir
It’s hard to feel sad and sing at the same time. Add in a social component and that happiness factor just increases. Research from Bath University shows that participating in a choir gives people a greater sense of togetherness than others experience in different social activities.
Whether it’s quilting, crochet, or cake decoration, the repetitive motions of crafting can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression, or chronic pain, giving health benefits similar to meditation.
Do some social exercise with others. And no, that doesn’t mean putting your headphones on at the gym. There is plenty of research that suggests that social isolation can be incredibly debilitating. Go full Canuck and join a curling team. Or find something a little more quirky, like a roller derby squad, circus skills school, or disc golf league.
5 reasons to kick it up a notch for our health
We talked to Louise Racine of Thirteen Moons Wellness about how—and why—we can kick it up a notch this New Year.
Holistic health covers our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Each is equally important, and when we open ourselves to trying new things, we nurture ourselves on one or more of these levels.
Stay open to possibility
The whole point of our lives is to live to our potential fuelled by our passion. The best way to connect to that is to be continually open to learning and doing new things, even if they initially make us uncomfortable.
Push through fear
Fear is often behind a resistance to trying something new. When we push through that, we build courage, self-belief, and confidence.
Challenge self-imposed limits
When it comes to physical activity, sometimes we think we’re not capable because we don’t like a certain activity, so we may resist trying it. Being open to thinking beyond our beliefs about ourselves can lead to a strong, flexible body.
Balance your brain
Trying something that challenges our intellect and engages both sides of our brain results in whole brain thinking, which improves physical coordination, creativity, and intuition. Balance your brain and try a creative project if you’re detail-oriented and vice versa.
Take care of spiritual health
Spiritual health is often overlooked. Commit to a New Year change by increasing your connection to yourself, to each other, and to the universe. Try a walk in nature, meditation, drumming, prayer, or a regular practice of gratitude.