What were your favorite hobbies as a kid? Did you like rock collecting? Caring for tadpoles? Writing poetry? When I was 8, I knew a boy whose favorite hobby was eating bugs. As a kid, I thought it was weird. As an adult, I admire his commitment.
Having hobbies as children was the norm. It was weird if you didn’t have hobbies. But as adults, it’s almost weird if you do have hobbies. How can you have the time for adult hobbies, parents may ask, if you’re busy with work? With taking care of the kids? With life?
The love of hobby-hood becomes lost the older we get. But I am here to argue that hobbies become more important — nay, imperative — as we get older. So to reignite your love of hobbies, here is the ultimate guide on how to find hobbies as an adult.
What is considered a hobby?
I understand that, as an adult, there might be some confusion on what a hobby actually is. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a hobby as “an activity that you do for pleasure when you are not working.”
Why am I spelling it out for you, you may ask? As adults, we are forced to do a lot of tasks in life. Some people enjoy said tasks, while others don’t. For example, if you hate cleaning your home, it’s definitely not a hobby. But if mopping your floors brings serenity and peace to your life, one could argue that cleaning is a hobby.
Another potential example of an adult hobby: doing your taxes. Perhaps doing your taxes is a dreaded chore for you to complete every year. Or perhaps you simply cannot wait to start your taxes. You have your tax day marked on your calendar. You make tax day themed treats. You have a tax themed playlist (the first song on your playlist: “Taxman” by the Beatles).
Then doing your taxes could be considered a hobby, and I applaud you.
Hobbies for adults can be many different things for many different people, because adults enjoy different things. As long as your hobby isn’t immoral, illegal and doesn’t hurt anyone, you won’t get any judgment from me. Not even if your favorite hobby is doing your taxes.
Here are some activities that are definitely hobbies:
- Bird watching.
- Duck herding.
- Extreme ironing.
- Underwater basket weaving.
- Pretending to ride a horse.
- Starting a garden.
- Learning photography.
- Creative writing.
Here are some things that definitely not hobbies:
- Taking out the trash.
- Staring into the void.
- Trying to get your kids ready in the morning.
- Midlife crises.
Is it normal to have no hobbies as an adult?
Look, life is busy. And weird. At one stage of your life, you might find yourself with hours and hours of time on your hands. At another, it might feel like you barely have time to get in eight precious hours of sleep, let alone a hobby. You might wonder: how did I get here?
Since life is vast and complex and messy, be kind to yourself. You might see hobbies as aspirational, only for those who frequent country clubs and can afford to have other people clean their houses. Hobbies are for people of leisure and ladies who brunch and, presumably, you are neither.
But you could be — on your own terms. So yes, it’s normal not to have hobbies. But no, hobbies are not out of reach. The beauty of hobbies is that they’re for everyone who has at least a vague interest in literally anything. You don’t need to choose a hobby that requires hours of time or hundreds of dollars. Hobbies are for you and only you, therefore only you can decide what and how and when.
Is it too late to find a hobby?
More often than not, finding a new hobby requires learning new skills. And there’s a stigma against learning as an adult: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Luckily, studies prove otherwise. In a 2015 study, Dayna Touron from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro proved that, while older adults underestimate their memories, they have the ability to learn just as much as their younger counterparts, per BBC.
In one study, Touron had her participants study and compare a table of word pairings with a second list. They then had to single out which words in the list weren’t in the original table.
While every participant of every age was able to make correct identifications, according to BBC, “the older adults — aged 60 and over — were more reluctant to rely on their memory, preferring instead to laboriously cross-reference the two tables, even though it took significantly more time.”
“For some reason, they weren’t confident that they had learnt the pairs accurately — and so took the more cautious, but time-consuming, strategy.”
Touron also asked that her participants keep a diary of their routines, and found that the older participants would fall into “memory avoidance.” This led to, as BBC put it, “a self-fulfilling prophecy.” As older adults believe that their memory isn’t up to par, and use it less, their memory will decline due to “lack of use,” per BBC.
What are the advantages of hobbies for adults?
BBC cites another study, conducted by Denise Park at the center for vital longevity at the University of Texas at Dallas in 2013. Park studied the importance of trying new activities — of breaking through “psychological barriers to learning,” as BBC put it.
Park divided 200 participants into groups, assigning them a program for different activities that they had to complete for 15 hours a week in three months. Some groups learned new skills, while others were given passive tasks. At the end of the three months, Park gave all participants a memory test.
Out of all participants, the ones who learned new skills had a significant improvement in memory. According to BBC, “Overall, the more active pastime of learning a new skill led to the more efficient brain activity you might observe in a younger brain, while the passive activities like listening to music brought no changes.”
“Crucially, these benefits were long-lasting, lingering for more than a year after the participants had completed their course.”
While Park stressed that she needs to conduct the study on other groups, her study corroborates her earlier research: that taking up a new hobby can give a significant “brain boost.” Park said that “it’s important that the task is novel and that it challenges you personally,” per BBC.
How to find a hobby — for adults
With so many hobbies out there, finding one that you enjoy can leave you feeling intimidated. But don’t worry. The worthy pursuit of hobbies may take some time, but can be a fun and fulfilling process. Here’s how to find a hobby as an adult — and how to find the right hobby for you.
1. Take stock of your interests
Are you interested in art? Pottery? Birds? Music, perhaps? Your interests might give a good indication of what hobbies you enjoy. If you love a good sweater — and you absolutely cannot wait for sweater weather each year — you might want to take up knitting. Or if you consider yourself a fashion connoisseur, and keep up on the latest trends, you can offer your services as a personal stylist to your friends and family.
2. Hark back to your childhood
Think back to when you were a kid: What did you like to do? Did you take dance classes? Did you love to play in the sandbox during recess? Maybe you really, really loved horses.
While there were probably things that you did as a kid that you wouldn’t enjoy now — I personally won’t take up pretending to be a wolf anytime soon — you might subconsciously enjoy things you loved as a child. What’s stopping you from taking up dance classes as an adult? Or trying a hand at sand sculpting? And for all those retired horse girls out there: why shouldn’t you try horseback riding lessons?
3. Take classes
A great way to investigate your interests is to try classes. Whether it’s at your closest college or your town’s community center, it’s likely that there are a lot of options available. Maybe there’s a pottery class you can stop by. Or a woodworking class. You’d be surprised at the variety of classes your community has to offer. And you don’t need to commit to taking multiple classes — all you need is to try one.
You might’ve knocked hobbies in the past, because you’re probably not interested in the clichés. Bird watching? Not for you. Pottery? You’re not artistic. And don’t even think about tennis — your hand-eye coordination is a tragedy. But there’s a whole world full of hobbies that you probably didn’t know existed. So explore and observe the world around you. Watch TV. Go on walks. Visit local stores. You might find and see people participating in hobbies that didn’t even occur to you.
5. Be open
One of the most important rules of having a hobby is not judging yourself for the hobby you gravitate towards. You might find yourself enjoying hobbies that are labeled as “childish,” like Legos or coloring. And that’s totally fine!
Or you might suspect that you’d enjoy a certain hobby, but find that you actually don’t like it once you give it a try. That’s also fine! Be open to trying hobbies that you never imagined yourself doing. You might end up finding something that you genuinely love.
How do I find time for adult hobbies?
Let’s be honest: life happens. You might pick up a hobby and start off strong. But between work, family and other responsibilities, you find yourself with less time to dedicate to your hobby. And before you know it, your beloved hobby is collecting dust in the darkest corner of your home.
It’s perfectly normal to lose steam. But even if you’re in a time in your life where you find yourself doing a hobby less, you can still stay committed. Here’s how.
1. Choose a hobby you actually enjoy
You might want to pick a noble hobby, like learning a language or reading 19th century Russian literature. But if those hobbies feel like chores, you’re probably not going to stick with them.
Remember, there’s no judgement when it comes to hobbies. So be honest with yourself: what do you actually want to do? What hobby excites you? It’s much easier to commit to a hobby that genuinely brings joy and leisure to your life.
2. Be realistic
Your excitement over your new hobby might make you overambitious. Let’s say that you started taking up guitar. You might start out strong, and commit to practicing for at least an hour every day. And you might actually start practicing an hour a day — for the first week. But then you get busy and practice less, which discourages you. You might get so discouraged that you abandon your guitar altogether.
To protect yourself from this vicious cycle, you need to set realistic goals. Life is too busy for you to do your hobby an hour every day. And when you make such a big commitment, your hobby might start to feel more like a burden. Instead, do your hobby once a week. Or maybe twice. Having realistic expectations will make your hobby less stressful and it’ll be easier for you to keep at it.
3. Enlist your friends
It’s easier to stick to a hobby when you have other people to hold you accountable. Have a hobby buddy, or even a hobby group. When you have other people who are in on a hobby with you, it can be easier to commit, and it might make your hobby even more fun. Maybe you and your friends can have a monthly paint night, or you can all take a dance class together. Either way, enjoying a hobby with friends can bring you closer together.
4. Schedule hobby time
With such a busy schedule, intentionally setting aside hobby time is important (as long as you’re being realistic). Let’s say that you’re usually free Thursday nights. That might be an ideal time for you to work on your piano playing. Or you often find yourself stressed on Mondays. That could be a great opportunity for you to unwind by painting with water colors. You know your schedule and your needs better than anyone. Schedule your hobby time for when you need it most.
5. Be patient with yourself
Taking up a new hobby might require a skill that you didn’t have. As an adult it can be frustrating, and even humiliating, to start at square one. But starting a new hobby requires both patience and humility, so go easy on yourself. It’s OK to struggle with a new skill. If it’s something that you enjoy, sticking to your hobby will be worth it.