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Why It’s Never Too Late to Start a New Creative Hobby
No matter your age or what you do for a living, your life will be richer if you have a creative hobby. The importance of having a creative outlet is emphasized today by the growing popularity of mindfulness and meditation practices. Yet, many people still find it hard to take time out from their busy lives to pursue creative interests. Many creative hobbies in and of themselves often fulfill the exact needs of modern mindfulness and meditation practices.
The Looming Middle Age
In the past few years, my kids have moved out and off into the real world. These middle years can be challenging for many women, and I felt less needed than ever while simultaneously having more time on my hands. Suddenly I had too much time on my hands, and I needed to do something with it. I also needed something to keep my mind off what those beautiful kids were doing out in the real world. It became apparent rather quickly that watching TV and eating ice cream were not great hobbies, especially for my hips. As much as I love my therapist, talking to her doesn’t fall under the category of “hobby,” either.
Around this time, I picked up my camera and began learning how to use it in earnest. I have always enjoyed taking photos of my kids, and I’ve used those photos for years to put together unique scrapbooks of their lives. But now that the kids are grown, I no longer need to make the scrapbooks, and I have the time to think about what I want to photograph and how I’d like to do it. Mid-life is the perfect time to expand my photography knowledge.
Investing in an online class was quick and convenient. I also found a great, supportive community online where I could ask questions and get friendly answers. As my knowledge grew, so did my skill, and I can’t tell you how important that is, especially when I was juggling a lot of feelings about being unneeded and not heard in my young adult kids’ lives.
Growing Old is Not for the Faint of Heart
Suppose you’re in that 50ish age range like me. You are probably beginning to experience some of the same joys of aging that I’ve been noticing, such as the involuntary groans that pop out as I rise from my chair. What about the stooped-over walk that happens after I stand that gets the blood flowing? Or the obnoxious way I keep forgetting even the simplest words? You too?
All the joys of turning 50 have pointed me to the importance of staying active both physically and mentally. It’s quite maddening and, at the same time, reminds me of the importance of getting out of my chair and involved in some activity before my brain and muscles become entirely useless! I mean – I’m 50, not dead!
Picking up the camera and learning how to use it has not only kept me physically and mentally active, but it has also allowed me to feel valued in a different way than I was as an active parent of young kids. Now that I have only one middle-school child left at home, I need my hobbies and social activities more than ever.
Here are four reasons why having a creative hobby is essential and why it should be part of everyone’s daily, or at the very least, weekly routine, no matter your age!
A Creative Hobby Fosters New Learning
Doing something new can be scary at first, but getting over that initial fear is part of learning. In his book, “The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance,” Joshua Waitzkin explains how he learned to become a world-class chess player and Tai Chi Push Hands competitor through a process that was very similar to the sensation of falling in love. He had a deep interest in what he was learning, but it wasn’t something he could attain without constant practice and hard work.
When I first began learning photography, I remember that I needed to practice a whole lot more than I would have as a youngster. My mind is not as fast at processing or remembering details as it was back in the days of my youth (only those who have aged like fine wine can say that and get away with it). But that’s okay. I’ve been able to work through some new ideas and techniques and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in sharing my new skills with those around me.
By nurturing your creative endeavors, you gain access to new knowledge and skillsets. In addition, trying new things outside your comfort zone helps build resiliency by increasing your ability to tolerate stress and recover from challenges. We all need a little help in those areas! Some tasks will be more difficult than others, but you expand your capacity for learning each time you leave your comfort zone (beyond the point where anxiety sets in). So now is the perfect time to try something new!
Creative Hobbies Can Supplement Your Income
The hobbies you learned when you were young have probably influenced your career somehow, and you may not have even known it was happening. For example, those who develop a passion for math and science as kids tend to go into engineering or computer programming as adults. If those individuals had cultivated a creative hobby like music, art, or theater instead of math and science, their career paths might have taken a very different course.
In the same way, as you grow through different stages of life, the new creative hobbies you pick up will offer you opportunities to expand into new career paths as much or as little as you choose.
As I have put the work in to learn photography, I’ve been able to begin a small business, photographing families and high school seniors. I’ve also had the joy and validation of selling a few of my art prints. It is incredible to know that my work is hanging in the homes and offices of some wonderful people, and I’m making a little money on the side. Some hobby photographers I know have used this small source of income as an opportunity to invest in new camera gear, so the hobby pays for itself.
Lake Michigan Sailboat
Chicago’s Crown Fountain by evening light
A hospital scene from above
Fireworks reflecting in Lake Macatawa at the annual Independence Day Festivities in Holland, Michigan
Inspirational Creative Hobbies for the Retired
Choosing your new hobby based on something fun and engaging for you, not just to make money, is important. My dad began to learn wood carving after he retired from his career in the food production industry. He and my mom travel annually from our cold Michigan winters down to Texas so they can enjoy dry roads and sunny skies. As they leaned into their new life of retirement and travel, he gave up his lifetime hobby of raising fancy show pigeons and picked up wood carving. It turns out a barn full of pigeons doesn’t travel well in even the biggest RV. Carving tools are much smaller and store easily in the RV’s lower compartments.
Dad began learning by carving tiny gnomes and giving them as gifts. He gifted them to his friends and family in the early years, and I have one that goes on my Christmas tree each season as a cherished ornament. As he continued to learn and grow his skills, he moved into carving birds. After so many years of studying birds and bird behavior, this was a natural transition for him.
He now carves all kinds of birds, from pheasants to an eagle and a series of small songbirds perched on various branches and stones. My brother and I both have some wonderful and unique works of art that we will cherish for years to come, long after dad is no longer with us. Just as I have made money from my photography, he has sold several of his pieces and now teaches other new woodcarvers all about the craft.
Love and Appreciation Turn into a marketable skill
People who have a deep interest in something tend to be good at getting others to understand and appreciate why they love it so much. If you can explain complex concepts about your hobby with enthusiasm, those skills will translate into what you can offer as a potential employee. This enthusiasm is the reason why my dad has supplemented his retirement income by selling carvings and teaching carving. His love of wood carving gives him a natural opportunity to teach the skill to other retired folks at the RV resort where my parents winter.
A Creative Hobby Provides Self-Confidence
I think it’s normal for most women, especially those of us in the middle years of life, to struggle with our level of self-confidence. One look in the mirror is enough to remind you that you’re not 20 anymore. You might now have curves and wrinkles where you never knew they could exist. Also, after feeling needed and wanted for so many years as the “soccer mom” to a family filled with kids and activity, it stands to reason that as we become less needed and more wrinkled, our self-confidence takes a hit.
Picking up a new skill or hobby is just the cure for this dilemma. Your developing new skills will give you an automatic self-esteem booster. Especially when those around you start to notice your hard work, take those compliments, ladies! Hold them close to your heart and know that you are important, loved, and your contribution to the world is important and valued!
Creative Hobbies Can Help You Cope with Stress And Depression
Not only is a new creative hobby great for your self-confidence, but it can do great things in helping you cope with stress and depression, too. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) says that “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” It would make perfect sense to explore anything that gives even a little bit of relief to either of those conditions.
Taking time out from our busy lives for self-care is not always easy, especially if you’re already dealing with some depression. Still, there are few things more beneficial than spending time doing activities we enjoy. Hobbies foster a sense of calm and contentment. They help us focus our thoughts on something other than the demands of our daily lives.
According to multiple studies, doing things you love can help reduce stress and improve your mood. When we feel good about ourselves, our accomplishments are more satisfying. There is a strong correlation between hobbies that involve self-improvement and greater happiness in life. Psychology Today points out how important it is to regularly spend time engaged in an activity that makes us happy. Engaging in a creative hobby allows us to maintain a positive chemical balance in the brain.
Creative Hobbies for the Mid-Life Woman
Never is it more important to engage your brain than in the middle and later years of life. There’s a reason the term “mid-life crisis” exists. The middle years are challenging and bring about a lot of transition. Many of us find ourselves amid empty nest syndrome or dealing with other significant life changes such as divorce or the illness of a spouse. Stress seems to be a natural part of aging, and anything we can do to alleviate some of that stress is worthy of our time. Well, anything safe and legal, that is. I don’t recommend your new creative hobby involve anything that might get you thrown in jail!
Finding time for creative activities can be challenging because many of us place work and family at the center of our lives, which means taking care of everyone else before we care for ourselves. There is no time like the present to find a new creative hobby and spend time practicing it. When you develop a creative hobby, you’ll find that the benefits extend far beyond the activity itself. Think of the example you are setting for your kids and grandkids to ensure that you take great care of your physical and mental health.
Related: Self Care Sunday: How To Dedicate One Day Each Week to Yourself
Making a Creative Hobby a Priority
Try starting small by finding time for a 15-minute hobby each day, like knitting or playing the guitar. Try different things until you find something that sparks joy (thanks for the wise words Marie Kondo). Imagine how much fun you will have sharing your new hobby with your family and friends or making new friends while enjoying it.
If you are not sure what hobby you want to try, go ahead and invite a group of friends to join you in the fun. Bringing friends is a great way to discover something you love to do together! I have a friend who has monthly gatherings where a group of women, most in their 50s, work on a craft together. We laugh, and we snack, and we occasionally have a cocktail. We also manage to try a new kind of craft each month. These nights are so fulfilling and often end with laughter, and sometimes with tears and hugs. We always leave feeling better than we did when we arrived.
If you don’t have a willing buddy or a partner who would like to join in your fun, go ahead and make a new friend or two by finding a class that teaches the craft that interests you. Most public libraries have classes available for free or at a low price. You can also check with your local Community Center or craft store for classes. You might meet your new best friend as you stretch into new hobby territory.
Here in my hometown, Holland, Michigan, we have a community center called Evergreen Commons, that offers various opportunities for active individuals aged 55 and up. A small annual fee allows you access to a great list of classes and experiences with other people in the same phase of life. They also have a pool! How cool is that!? I bet you can find a similar organization in your town if you’re looking for an organized place to pick up a new hobby.
A List of Creative Hobbies to Get You Thinking
A hobby can be one of many things that make you feel relaxed and joyful when you participate in them. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it brings out the best in you! I’ve put together a shortlist of creative hobby ideas to get you thinking. Of course, this is not the ultimate list, but I hope it will get you thinking!
- Flower Arranging
- Wood Carving
- Cross Stitching
- Yarnwork – Knitting or Crochet
- Art Journaling / Bullet Journaling
- Soap Making
- Paper Crafting
- Hand lettering or Calligraphy
- Cooking – check out zonacooks.com for small batch recipes for two
- Jewelry Making
- Polymer Clay
- Painting with Acrylics or Watercolors
- Pickleball or tennis
- Walking for a cause
- Chess, Bunko, or Cribbage
- Water Aerobics or Swimming
- Join a Book Club or Bible Study
Putting it all together
As we reach the middle years of life, it is more important than ever to find creative ways to stay active physically and mentally. Set a great example to your loved ones and coworkers and prioritize yourself. Even if you don’t consider yourself artistic or creatively inclined, there are ways to integrate creativity into your daily routine. The most important thing is that you find what fulfills you and stick with it! You will be amazed at how good you feel about picking up a new creative hobby, especially when you see the results and feel the encouragement of those around you.
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