Emotional Wellbeing

Health

Ainsley Lawrence

Exploring the Mental and Emotional Enrichment of Late-Life Hobbies

hobbies

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One thing many people give up when they’re in the thick of raising a family, having a career, and navigating other life responsibilities is hobbies. There doesn’t seem to be enough time to do things for yourself, let alone all of your duties. 

But now, you’re older, immersed in your golden years. And you’ve got more time. Filling that time with meaningful hobbies can have a profound effect on your health, wellness, and your quality of life. 

Let’s explore more about how hobbies can provide a number of benefits for your overall well-being as a person enjoying their golden years. 

Exercise Your Cognitive Abilities 

A recent study revealed that “Nearly a third of Americans 65 and older have some level of cognitive impairment — including 10 percent who have dementia.” It’s common for cognitive abilities, such as thinking, remembering, and learning, to diminish with age. 

Thankfully, there are things older adults can do to exercise their minds and keep them stimulated to fend off cognitive decline, like taking on new hobbies. You learn a lot when engaging in new hobbies. You use memory, and motor skills, and continuously challenge yourself too. 

Exercising all of these cognitive abilities on a consistent basis keeps your mind strong and functioning well. 

Nurture Your Mental Health 

The World Health Organization confirmed that 20% of adults 60 and older are living with a mental or neurological disorder. These mental or neurological disorders include depression, dementia, anxiety, and substance use problems. 

They may not cure the above challenges, but hobbies can help and positively impact your mental health. 

For example, playing an instrument supports good mental health. Creating music can release dopamine, making you feel happy and relaxed. As a result, your stress levels go down and anxiety leaves your body. 

You’re also training your brain to recognize patterns and memorize notes, which helps your brain improve its ability to adapt, recover, and learn. 

Navigating a mental health condition in your later years is difficult. But having something like a hobby you love to help you cope with it can give you hope. 

Get Emotional Fulfillment 

When our kids are grown and on their own, our friends start to pass away, or we retire from long-standing careers, we lose chunks of our emotional fulfillment, or that feeling of wholeness and having your emotional needs met fully. 

You need something that will help you get that feeling back and maintain it to ensure you thoroughly enjoy life over 50. That something could be a hobby.  

Simply put, a hobby can make you feel good. It can make your heart and soul happy when you’re doing something that excites and challenges you. Hobbies provide you with the emotional fulfillment you may have been missing. 

Make More Social Connections 

There’s a lot of research on the experience aging adults have with social isolation and loneliness. It happens more often than not for various reasons, like a spouse passing away, becoming an empty nester, or living alone. 

When older adults are socially isolated, they’re more at risk for health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and weakened immune systems. 

Pursuing a hobby in your golden years can help you avoid social isolation. You can meet new people and develop friendships no matter what you’re interested in, keeping you in a healthy socialization routine. 

Tips for Cultivating New Hobbies  

The benefits highlighted above are enough to make anyone curious about pursuing a new hobby. If you want to but aren’t sure where to start, implement these three tips so that your next hobby is as impactful on your life and health as you want it to be. 

Choose meaningful hobbies to explore 

You could make a list of random hobbies and just try them all. But it might be a better option to choose hobbies that mean something to you. Much of the mental and emotional enrichment you get from hobbies has to do with how connected to them you are. 

So, think hard about the hobbies you’ve always wanted to try or the ones you picked up when you were younger and had to give up for whatever reason. What makes you happy? Which activities could brighten up the worst day? 

Ensure you’re choosing meaningful hobbies to explore to ensure you’re putting effort and time into what makes you feel most whole and happy at this stage in your life. 

Have a direction with your new hobby 

Without a direction for your new hobby, you risk being inconsistent and eventually not returning to it at all. In addition, if you don’t know what and how to learn what you need to enjoy your hobby, it can get frustrating quickly. 

You can define the direction you want to go with your hobby by setting goals using the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework

S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. When you create goals with this framework they’re more structured. With that structure you can create a step-by-step plan for reaching your goals, making them easier to attain. 

What do you want to come from this hobby? For example, do you want to develop more friendships? Do you want to eventually enter a competition? Do you want to get out of the house a couple of times a week? 

Whatever your goals are, write them down the S.M.A.R.T way. Then, take each goal and determine what you have to do to reach them. For instance, let’s say your goal is to meet new friends. In that case, your plan could be to engage in a group activity related to your hobby once a week, and in that activity, you talk to at least one person. 

Late-life hobbies may require some extra effort and intention to pursue, but it’s worth it for the impact they can have on your mental and emotional health as you age gracefully. 

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash