Headcase – the value of pleasure

In our culture, the value of pleasure is sometimes underestimated. But sources of pleasure, such as our hobbies, aren’t just the opposite of work. Rather, they provide numerous benefits that promote psychological health and help us build a good life:

  1. Providing novelty

We can’t change careers too often, but with hobbies we can experience extra variety in our lives. Novelty helps build our resiliency in a wide range of ways. We experience learning, making mistakes, thrills, surprises, building skills and surmounting challenges and frustrations. When we surmount a challenge, we have that memory to draw on for future challenges.

Hobbies also help us experience a wider variety of emotions – and the more diverse our emotions are, the more resilient we tend to be. For example, you may not experience much awe in your job, but you might while tramping every fortnight with your local club. An emotion such as awe helps us zoom out and see the big picture beyond the niggling stressors of life. Hobbies such as painting, crafting or baking might help you experience calm and mindfulness. When it comes to difficult emotions, the more experience we get navigating them in diverse circumstances, the better at it we have the opportunity to become. Emotional diversity also improves our creativity, including our creative problem-solving.

  1. Diversifying our social networks

Hobbies allow us to expand our social networks and make connections with people who think differently from us and have different personalities, life experiences and world views. When we spend time and share activities with others, we get insights into how others think, see the world and approach decision-making. We all have default ways of operating, like being very cautious or hesitating before making decisions. Our hobbies expose us to people with other ways of operating.

Hobbies such as reading or TV-watching don’t involve other people but can still improve our emotional intelligence by giving us perspective and insight into the lives of other people.

  1. Being our whole selves

Who we are isn’t fixed. Research shows we develop our interests and strengths through the activities we partake in. Our hobbies can help us rediscover hidden or lost parts of ourselves and also help us create new aspects of and depths to us.

When we have a sense we’re growing, and that our self is expanding, it can help us feel like our life is on track. Intimate relationships often function better when the people in them feel like they’re satisfied and growing as individuals and together. When one partner picks up a new hobby some of the benefits can transfer to the other partner. When children see their parents doing hobbies, it promotes their curiosity and resilience too.

  1. Providing an anchor

Engaging in familiar hobbies can provide an anchor when the seas of life are rough. When we’re stressed we need habits and routines we can fall back on.

If you have habits of engaging in hobbies, it can help you not become isolated and lost in overthinking when you’re stressed.

So how can you make the most of your hobbies? You can deliberately choose hobbies that provide the benefits mentioned here. Pay attention to emotions, such as wonder, whenever you experience them in the context of a hobby. But you don’t need to choose only virtuous hobbies. Any hobby you approach with a sense of curiosity and adventure will be beneficial.

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