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Massage Today
May, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 05

Developing a Hobby to Help You Find Your Flow

By Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT

I recently came across an article about J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of one of the most widely read modern fictional series, The Lord of the Rings. I was surprised to learn that as a professor at Oxford University, he never intended The Lord of the Rings series to be his crowning achievement or to be as successful as it has become.

In fact, creative writing was a hobby for him: he saw himself as a scholar first and a writer second. It is hard to imagine that such an influential piece of work like his would never have existed if he simply didn't have the time or passion, for pursuing his "hobby." This led me to consider the subject of hobbies and their importance in our daily life. As it turns out, hobbies are a great way to experience fulfillment and get energized.

In 1990, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. In it, he describes flow as, "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved and you're using your skills to the utmost." Entering this flow state releases the "feel good" chemicals in your brain: endorphins, norepinephrine and dopamine. These chemicals help us stay focused and interested in what we are doing and that energizes us. Hobbies are a great way to reach a state of flow.

runner - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Engaging in an enjoyable activity is also a great way to better handle the stress of our personal or professional lives. Taking a break from our routine on a daily or weekly basis can help us view a problem or situation differently. Plus, if we feel like we don't have time to just "take a break" from our busy lives, we might be able to better justify that break if we are actively pursuing an activity. Multiple studies have confirmed real health benefits of routinely engaging in a hobby, such as higher levels of positive psychosocial states and lower levels of depression, blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference and total body mass index.

So, it is time to stop feeling guilty for playing golf, taking the car out for a "scenic" drive or staying up too late playing chess. Dedicating time to these pursuits will help you feel more positive about other in every areas of life. If you have not pursued a hobby yet, some of the more common ones are: writing, photography, scrapbooking, gardening, doing puzzles, pursuing a musical instrument, painting, drawing, knitting or pursuing a physical activity (running, biking, skiing, etc). Who knows, the next great work of fiction might be forming in your brain as we speak!

Click here for more information about Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT.


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