In an increasingly busy and hectic world, it can sometimes feel difficult to carve out a little time for yourself. With growing demands on our attention from work, family and socialising, it’s easy for personal hobbies to be pushed to the back burner and forgotten about. However, increasingly evidence shows that participating in a solitary hobby can be extremely beneficial for your mental health, energy levels, productivity and even physical health. If you’re reading this, then the chances are that you’re already interested in model building and radio-controlled toys as hobbies; read on to find out how they could be benefitting you more than you realise.
What Psychology Says
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly calls fully absorbing activities being in the ‘flow’, meaning to be so preoccupied with one activity that you are distracted completely from all the stresses and strains of life whilst you complete your task. This is a state that can be achieved through picking up a hobby which you enjoy, and which presents an opportunity to constructively challenge yourself. Ideally, this would mean an activity that you have some confidence with already but where you can also recognise room for improvement or development.
Csikszentmihaly gives chess and card games as good examples of hobbies that encourage being in the ‘flow’ because they represent easily identifiable parameters and have a set of definitive rules. But not only that, playing games is also good for your brain. Knowing these theories, I experimented myself with similar activities from the scientific perspective. I found that games like these fully occupied my attention for a set period of time, allowing me to switch off from everyday concerns whilst giving my mind a gentle workout. I also found it easy to fit this hobby into everyday life, as you can pick it up anytime and anywhere with an internet connection. The action of working towards a clear, set goal within outlined guidelines releases endorphins, and the immediate feedback from these activities gives a satisfying sense of achievement.
Types of Suitable Activities
Regularly engaging in a solitary hobby can help to calm anxiety and maintain balanced mental health. Repetitive behaviours such as assembling a jigsaw puzzle, constructing a model plane or practicing playing an instrument have a calming effect and can boost your self-esteem through the creation of a positive feedback loop. The more you match up the jigsaw pieces, the closer you get to completing the picture and feeling that sense of accomplishment. The same applies to practicing chords on a guitar until you can play a song or adding pieces to a model plane until you hold the finished article.
Being creative is a great way to do this, and that can mean anything from picking up a box of watercolours to starting a journal to taking up the potter’s wheel. An ideal way to practice a hobby that puts you in the ‘flow’ is to combine free-flowing creativity with a set of defined rules. Model building is the perfect example of this, as you are creating something at the same time as following a rulebook. This hobby has endured across generations and looks to be increasing in popularity today rather than falling by the wayside.
With radio-controlled models, there is also the opportunity to continue the hobby after the initial build is complete with trips to suitable areas where you can fly or sail your creation. In this way, you have a long-lasting and rewarding hobby that stretches your mind in a variety of different ways whilst providing the pleasure of conceptualising, building and using the efforts of your labour.
Other ideas for solitary hobbies include listening to podcasts, reading a book, solving Sudoku puzzles or completing crosswords. All of these are more readily available on the go, for times when you don’t have access to your more involved projects at home. It is vitally important to recognise that making time for these activities is essential for leading a happy and fulfilling life. Having a pocket Sudoku book with you or a list of podcasts ready to catch up with on your phone can be one solution to fitting hobbies into an active lifestyle.
However, it’s important that you don’t neglect your bigger ‘flow’ activities. The ones that really absorb you for long periods of time are the ones that will eventually make the most significant impact. Taking these ‘mini holidays’ from your life is a way of practicing self-care by positively stimulating the mind whilst calming any anxiety. Taking time for yourself, to indulge in a hobby that you enjoy doing, is essential for avoiding burn-out and for cultivating a healthy, happy brain. Leaving the mind free to pursue thoughts free from stress or worry can lead to surprising connections; you never know, you may find the solution to that difficult problem at work in a flash of inspiration whilst putting the finishing touches on your replica HMS Victory. So even if you feel like you don’t have time, it’s important to make time for yourself and for your hobbies.