Success isn’t the source of happiness. Happiness is the source of success. That’s the gist of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, a book by Shawn Achor. Hobbies, he writes, “enhance our concentration, engagement, motivation, and sense of enjoyment.” Simply put, hobbies are healthy.
Time management and productivity are considered integral to an effective work day. It stands to reason that making smart use of our time outside of work contributes to a better work-life balance.
What Constitutes a Hobby?
“Smart use” isn’t so easy to qualify, either. Turning on the TV to binge on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or whatever streaming service you prefer is fun, to be sure. It is an escape and can help us unwind. But when it comes to discussing how hobbies are healthy—how they can help us—media consumption doesn’t enter the mix.
Whatever you choose, it should provide a “sense of mastery, you’re developing new skills, new thought processes, and really challenging yourself to learn something new and develop your skill set,” says Dr. Kevin Eschleman, an assistant psychology professor at San Francisco State University, who led a study on the correlation between hobbies and job performance (“5 Hobbies That Make People Better At Their Jobs”, Fast Company).
Hobbies Can Make You a Better Employee
According to a study (“Benefiting from creative activity: The positive relationships between creative activity, recovery experiences, and performance-related outcomes”), “people with creative hobbies outside of work feel more relaxed and in control in their off-hours, and are more likely to be helpful to coworkers and creative in their approach solving work problems than those without these hobbies,” (“13 hobbies that could make you a better employee”, Business Insider).
Further, a study by the Society of Behavioral Medicine—”Real-Time Associations Between Engaging in Leisure and Daily Health and Well-Being”—discovered that participants who engaged in hobbies were found to be happier, more capable of dealing with stress, and had lower heart rates.
How Can We Be Happy?
“Happiness makes us better at our jobs, makes us more productive, resilient, and less likely to burn out,” says Stewart Brown, founder and president of Genuine Health (“How hobbies can make us better in the workplace”, The Globe and Mail). “We’re more drawn to happy people – in both our personal and professional lives. You would obviously want to deal with someone who’s happy if given the choice. Ditto with companies – who doesn’t want to do business with a company that’s full of happy and helpful people?”
Mr. Brown boils it down to this: How can we be happy? To which, he adds:
How can we provide an environment where employees feel the same and are motivated to do great work? This is the big question that many HR departments face, and companies spend a lot of money coming up with initiatives to boost morale. But in reality, the solution can be so simple.
It’s my opinion that hobbies can help boost our day-to-day happiness and make us better at our job.
We don’t need research studies to tell us hobbies are a good thing. We’ve all had hobbies we love.
The take-away isn’t just that hobbies are healthy, they are necessary. We need something other than work to stimulate and satisfy us. We need multiple sources of happiness.
Hobbies have proven to make us happy, and happiness begets success, so why do we have so much trouble incorporating them into our lives?
Hobbies Are Healthy, but They Are Also Hard
“In general, Americans actually find free time more difficult to enjoy than work,” Mr. Achor says in The Happiness Advantage. There are too many “passive leisure” activities, he says, that are easier to fall into than, say, going for a bike ride or writing.
For the most part, our jobs require us to use our skills, engage our minds, and pursue our goals—all things that have been shown to contribute to happiness. Of course, leisure activities can do this too, but because they’re not required of us—because there is no “leisure boss” leaning over our shoulder on Sunday mornings telling us we’d better be at the art museum by 9 A.M. sharp—we often find it difficult to muster the energy necessary to kick-start them.
– The Happiness Advantage
We need to make things easier. We need to create the habit. We need to embrace the idea that hobbies are healthy and build it into our daily DNA.
Schedule it into your day, and keep to the commitment. Instead of turning on the TV, pick up a book. The first step will always be difficult, but once you’ve taken it, the next ones will keep coming.