Bring Back The Hobbies

I am a boomer and I can knit, do crochet, macramé, and some decent tatting too. Oh, I forgot the cross stitch and lazy daisy work on matty cloth and casement material. And remember the French knots!

How do you spend your free time millennial? Other than scrolling through Instagram, taking to Twitter, or browsing Netflix? You will blame the technology of course and perhaps you are right. But how do I tell you the joys of watching a bedcover take shape under your needlepoint? It breaks my heart that you will never know the sisterhood of sitting under a ‘kikkar’ tree in Punjab with the womenfolk in the humid afternoons, humming folk songs, and knotting a ‘dhurrie’ by hand. From scratch, let me tell you.

Yours is a generation submerged and swept away in your phones and social media. If it is not uploading, surfing, and taking shots of the screen, it is staring dopily at influencers and celebrities talk about their lives on Instagram. Where’s yours? Life I mean.

Siestas were frowned upon on the farms where I spent my school holidays. Call it hateful patriarch but the girls were all skilled at hand churning for butter, stoking the cooking fire, scrubbing the brass utensils, and tending to the tandoor. We pitched in with serving the meals and the last round of thick, sweetened, piping pink milk. As a matter of fact, I tried my hand at milking the buffalo on occasions! Were we adequately stimulated? How high was our brain activity? What did our attention span look like? I just remember the high that comes from a

task accomplished. Sure they were easy activities, fairly straightforward but what is so complicated about Instagram and Netflix? And yet they are not half as nourishing perhaps as reading, cooking, or sewing.

Come on, admit it. You have lost the hobbies. It is just about the hustle now, side or main. Everything has to be a moneymaking enterprise. How about some creative handiwork that is guaranteed to bring you a sense of joyful accomplishment, peace, and real relaxation? How about borrowing patterns from each other? How about sharing notes on half-stitch and double-stitch? How about knitting a snug cap for a loved one?

Hobbies have all but died out. There is just binge-watching one hears of and through the night. How exhausting, the flickering screen that carries you away from your own reality! There lies an entire alternate world of not just instant joy but also long-term personal development through hobbies. In this life so full of the daily humdrum obligations, hobbies block you your “you” time. Giving yourself some creative tasks outside of long working hours is full of benefits for your mental health and wellbeing. Direct benefits of hobbies go beyond the physical such as through exercise, dance, and movement. These wholesome pursuits can leave you feeling empowered through creative freedom and cognitive focus such as the ability to concentrate on a pleasurable activity without the day-to-day interruptions of life.

There are other indirect benefits of hobbies such as a sense of achievement and goals, new learning experiences, increased social contact, and formation of new connections. Most of my life’s most enduring friendships have been through shared interests. I have my horse-riding mates with whom I have had the unimaginable fortune of riding on hunts over the Ooty downs. There are my golf buddies that have given me memories of daybreak tee-offs followed by piping hot coffee. What would I be without my Spanish language classmates bonding over tension-filled orals!

Millennials and zoomers, you simply have to turn to hobbies to help with your general wellbeing. Stop looking at your phone for stimulation. There are plenty of other ways to switch off from the hustle and bustle of daily life and fill your hours with. Those darned phones can contribute to anxiety and depression, but hobbies can provide the perfect antidote to stress. With reason! You see, hobbies require an individual to focus solely on whatever it is they’re doing, putting other thoughts out of their mind for a few minutes or hours — which is ultimately the definition of mindfulness and meditation.

There are tremendous mental health benefits of taking up hobbies. Not only are we kept busy with something to do, but we also have focus and direction. A consistent involvement will give you time to switch off and be more mindless than mindful so that you can temporarily zone out of whatever is going on in life and work. Having your own hobby can be your own version of mindfulness and meditation. Take up rock-climbing. Join a cycling group. Get into drawing Mandala paintings. There is a virtual sea of skills out there, for the taking. I have tried my hand at Zumba, Yoga, Bollywood dancing, Garba lessons, Waltz, and Tango at various stages of life.

At regular intervals, I pick up a new skill project. Keeping at this consistently has helped me rack up a hamper of skills that give me the confidence to be at home anywhere in the world. If it was learning to swim the freestyle one season, it was cycling 100 km in another. If the aim was to sharpen my golf score during one phase it became all about learning to play the Greensleeves on the piano in another. I have labored over my bachata and rock-n-roll. I have burnt the midnight oil over the conjugations of Spanish language. I have taught myself the backstroke and butterfly in swimming. Bit by bit, a step at a time…I learned the habit of stepping out of my comfort zone.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t do a cost-benefit analysis. Don’t bother about perfecting a skill. Don’t look too far ahead. There’s something for every interest and budget out there, whether it’s baking, sketching, home-brewing, photography or hiking. So, how do you spend your free time? If the answer concerns you, it’s not too late to make a change. Bring back simple-yet-fun hobbies for 2020 and stop technology drowning you out.

Published by neerja@neerjasingh.com

I consider myself the Official Seenager, the senior teenager. A proud Air Force Veteran’s wife, I enjoy golf, love myroad bicycle that I rode Delhi-Chandigarh (246 km) and Gandhinagar-Nadabet Border (278 km) and enjoy swimming, a kilometer at a stretch. A lookout by nature, I am that person who sits in the crow’s nest on ships, scanning the seas for hazards. Despite my long history of paid work as an advertising executive, prize-winning fiction writer, feature journalist, teacher, script-writer, TV anchor, professional columnist, and editor it is my unpaid job as a mother to my two Ivy League-educated girls that taught me the biggest lesson of my life. This is the time for a never before empathy with the young and their modern demons. There is an impression that generation gap is just one of those things. But I have seen firsthand that, it in fact has the potential to cause parental alienation, mental sickness and in extreme cases, loss of life today. I have since turned a professional speaker on Effective Cross-generational Communication. My purpose in life now is to befriend this age group and those responsible for their care so that precious young lives flourish instead of spiraling out of control.

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