Why Having a Habit Is Healthy

It's the start of a new year and, therefore, resolutions are being made (and probably already broken) all over the place. Everyone wants to be physically healthier—that's a given. But what can we do for our mental health and happiness? How about taking up a hobby?

The Benefits of Developing a Hobby

A hobby can be a quiet and personal pursuit like taking music lessons or learning quilting, or it can be a more active and social pursuit like participating in a sports league. The key to deciding on a hobby is finding something that you really enjoy doing. Hobbies will:

  • Give you the opportunity to meet new people, while pursuing a healthy activity. One of the challenges of recovery is finding ways to socialize while avoiding old social contacts and situations that contributed to your addiction.
  • Provide you a healthy outlet for stress and boredom. Boredom and stress are the enemy of recovery, and can set you up for a relapse.
  • Help you learn and perfect a new skill, or reinforce an existing skill. Some of these skills could even lead to employment opportunities.
  • Improve your enjoyment of life.

What Interests You?

One of the problems with finding a hobby is figuring out what to do. For people who are coming out of addiction, it could be hard to know what your interests are, because you might have given a lot of them up during your addiction. If you're feeling lost, there are several ways to find your passion:

  • Think about the kinds of things you like to do before. You might find that you are still interested in these activities, and would enjoy returning to them.
  • Ask your friends what they like. You might find that they have interests similar to yours.
  • Watch television. I know this sounds strange but you can get a lot of ideas just by watching other people do what they love. For example, watching a show like Dancing With the Stars might trigger an interest in ballroom dancing; kung fu movies might influence you to try martial arts.
  • Don't beat yourself up. You might try something and discover that you don't like it. That's all part of the process. If you discover that an activity is not for you, feel free to move on to something else. It's better that you find something that you like than spend a lot of time and energy on something you don't enjoy.
  • For that matter, watching TV and movies can be a hobby in and of itself.

Avoiding Pitfalls

While hobbies can make life more enjoyable and help your through the recovery process, they are not without their pitfalls. The biggest pitfall is the risk of substituting your hobby for your addiction—essentially, becoming addicted to your hobby. Here are some warning signs:

  • You alienate family and friends to pursue your hobby
  • You feel depressed, angry, or upset if you have to go a day or more without you hobby
  • You are spending all of your money on your hobby
  • Your hobby takes precedence over everything else, including your job and family obligations

One of the things you might notice after being sober for a while is that you now have a lot of extra time on your hands. All of the time that you once devoted to maintaining your addiction (or hanging out with people who supported it) is now available for other things. One of the down sides to all this free time is that it can lead to boredom, which could cause you to relapse. One way to make use of your new-found free time, and the nervous energy that often goes with it, is to healthily focus that energy elsewhere. You might just find your passion.

Hobbies are great ways to balance out your life and connect with others as well. But like everything, they should be done in moderation, balanced with other aspects—friends, family, work. If you notice any of the above happening, consider seeking professional help, checking in with your sponsor, or going to a meeting.