Some people come to therapy feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about their tendency to pick up and put down hobbies on a whim. They ask questions like:
- “Why do I feel so scattered, hopping from one interest to another?”
- “Is it normal to want to learn so many things, or am I just avoiding commitment?”
- “Why do I feel like I’m not truly excelling in any one area despite my many pursuits?”
The pervasive cultural narrative has often celebrated specialization, making those with multifaceted interests feel out of place. Society has long valued depth over breadth, equating mastery in a single field with success and purpose. This has led to a collective anxiety: the fear of missing out on becoming an expert. Because of this, we feel an underlying pressure to find that “one true calling,” whether or not it really exists for us, and stick to it, fearing that a broad spectrum of interests indicates a lack of focus or dedication.
However, what if this multifaceted curiosity isn’t a sign of indecision, but rather an indicator of one’s pursuit of a life that values diverse experiences, deep emotions, personal growth and wisdom? Against this backdrop, many are now reevaluating their self-doubt. They realize that their myriad interests might be paving the way for a life rich in experiences and introspection. What’s more, these diverse pursuits could potentially shield them from age-related cognitive decline.
Multiple Hobbies? You’re Crafting The ‘Good Life’ With Each One
The quest for happiness and meaning can sometimes overshadow the very essence of the journey, with individuals so focused on the destination that they lose sight of the experiences along the way.
A 2021 paper in Psychological Review delves deep into this understanding. Traditionally, our notions of a good life have been rooted in hedonic (pleasure-seeking) or eudaimonic (meaning-centered) well-being. However, this paper introduces the concept of psychological richness as an integral component of a fulfilling life.
So, what is a psychologically rich life, and how are hobbies related to this concept?
Rather than focusing solely on happiness or meaning, psychologically rich lives are characterized by a mosaic of intriguing, transformative experiences. The patience imbibed from knitting, the discipline from martial arts or the shift in perspective from photography, all contribute to freeing our mind and spirit. With every new hobby, we not only diversify our life’s narrative but also experience the liberation that comes from seeing the world through multiple lenses. Key indicators of those leading psychologically rich lives include heightened curiosity, holistic thinking and a tendency towards political liberalism.
The findings of the study demonstrate that happiness, meaning and psychological richness, while interrelated, are distinct paradigms of a rewarding life. Notably, a substantial number of participants of the study globally expressed a preference for a psychologically rich life, even if it came at the cost of happiness or meaning.
This suggests that individuals with a wide range of hobbies, always eager to learn and explore, aren’t scatterbrained or indecisive. They’re simply perpetually appreciative of the journey.
The More Hobbies We Engage In As We Age, The Lower Our Risk For Dementia
Think of the brain like a muscle: the more we use and challenge it, the stronger and more resilient it becomes. So, while engaging in hobbies is a way to pass the time, it might also be a protective shield against some forms of dementia.
A 2022 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology tracked older participants over a median period of 11 years. During this time, 3,095 of the participants were diagnosed with disabling dementia. But here’s where things get interesting: those who reported having hobbies were at a significantly decreased risk.
To break it down:
- People who had at least one hobby had a risk reduction of 18% compared to those who had no hobbies.
- Those who engaged in many hobbies enjoyed an even greater benefit, with their risk dropping by 22%.
This protective effect was seen in both middle-aged individuals (40 to 64 years) and older adults (65 to 69 years).
The age-old debate of breadth versus depth finds a fresh perspective when we look at the hobbies we choose to engage in. Diverse interests not only carve a path towards a psychologically rich life, which is an important marker of overall well-being, but also act as sentinels guarding our cognitive health. Embracing hobbies isn’t just for the restless spirit; it’s a recipe for a resilient mind and a well-lived life.