Suddenly at the age of 37 I started a new hobby – still photography. About a year after my brother passed away, and about 2 years after I lost my wife (my story), I purchased a Canon50 camera (a.k.a “Nifty Fifty”). In many articles on my blog, I’ve discussed the idea of changing what we focus on to help us change our perception of reality (read my article about The Law of Attraction). For me, the camera was a means that helped me put my focus in the camera viewfinder, and maybe that way helped me change the way I look at the world, and altered my perception of reality.
It all began when I started to use my cell phone camera, where I started taking pictures for my enjoyment. The high quality of the images, combined with my passion for technology have drawn me into this world of photography. Admittedly, there was probably something else below the surface. I noticed the sense of satisfaction and serenity that the camera provided me.
A study published in Psychological Science examined adults ages 60 to 90 were assigned to either learn a complex skill like photography or quilting, both of which demand more use of working and long-term memory compared to a group that was asked to perform simpler mental activities like crossword puzzles. 3 months later, the “complex skill” group showed wide-range improvement in overall memory compared with the crossword puzzle group.
Photography in itself, beyond the pleasure of learning a new skill, is a hobby for me. Getting to know the camera, which is not in my comfort zone (computers) filled a lot of my free time. In photography, I really enjoy getting to know the camera buttons that enhance the end result – a still image. I really enjoy learning about composition, which makes me the director of the image I produce. Learning about lighting and the amount of light reflected in a picture helps me appreciate the gifts of the sun in a way I never thought could be possible. As I think about it, I find more and more reasons to love the new hobby that was introduced into my life every time I pick up my camera. It reminds me of the principle that works in our brain – “What we focus on expands”. The more I think about the reasons why my new hobby makes me happy, the more I manage to find more and more reasons to be happy.
In the following lines I’ll share with you some fascinating studies that point to the connection between hobbies and health benefits.
The Australian Department of Health has released an article saying that spending time on an activity that one enjoys can improve mental health and wellbeing. Research shows that people with hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress, low mood, and depression. Activities that get you out of your house can make you feel happier and more relaxed. Group activities like team sports can improve your communication skills and relationships with others.
In 2010, a team of researchers from universities in Kansas, Pittsburgh, and Texas discovered that hobbies and leisure pursuits were associated with various markers of better physical health, including lower blood pressure, body mass index, and stress hormones. According to one study, published in March 2020, hobbies are linked with decreased symptoms of depression and 30% lower odds of experiencing depression.
Let’s take music as a fun activity for leisure time. As studies have shown, playing and listening to music can also benefit both mental and physical health. In 2013, Medical News Today reported on the first large-scale review of research papers studying music’s effect on neurochemistry. It was suggested that music can boost the body’s immune system, lower levels of stress and anxiety, and ease depression. Among patients awaiting surgery, listening to music was found to be more effective at decreasing anxiety than prescription drugs, and listening to and playing music was linked to lower levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol. A study conducted in 2011 also compared the brain’s response to music with its reactions to food and sex, as the pleasurable feelings derived from all 3 are driven by the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine (source).
My cocktail at Jasper’s. Camera settings: F-stop f/5.6, Exposure time 0.8 sec, ISO speed ISO-100, Focal Length 33mmi
Having listed the health benefits of finding a new hobby as well as the health benefits of purchasing a new skill, I hope I managed to explain why hobbies are important from a health point of view. In the following lines, I’ll detail what positive thoughts were created when I introduced a new hobby into my life, something that’s changed my life called “positive thinking” and characterize what positive thoughts are created as soon as you choose to introduce a new hobby into your life.
- Satisfaction – After I purchased my new camera, I started watching YouTube tutorial videos and understanding what each and every button does, learning composition, what shutter speed is, etc. Any learning of something that helped me produce better quality images, caused a “WOW effect”. I just couldn’t believe that what I have just learned, made such a significant improvement in the quality of photograph. I experienced great satisfaction from the learning and the end result. Today, when I know how to value life differently, I realize how important it is to give happiness the place it needs to grow and I “extended the moment” of happiness as much as I could.
- Being busy – When I started learning how to work the camera, I also realized how much more I have to learn and how vast this world of photography is. Tutorial video after tutorial video, photo after photo shoot, just made me busy. When I’m busy with photography, I do not necessarily allocate time to negative thoughts. Being busy just made me focus on doing positive things. It simply helped me get rid of negative thoughts.
- Happiness – If satisfaction is the enjoyment of those small successes (WOW effect), happiness is the general feeling that it is a by-product of many moments of satisfaction. ‘Satisfaction,’ is the state wherein ones desires are met. On the other hand, ‘Happiness’ is defined as both a state of mind and an emotion, thus one can be happy even if not all his/her needs are met. That said, I was satisfied when I felt these “WOW moments” when I managed to get the perfect photograph due to something I’ve just learned; In addition to that, even when I could’nt understand how a particular function in the camera works, I was still happy with the new experience and the fact that I stepped out of my comfort zone to get this far.
- Hope – After a long period of mourning, one may be discouraged to no longer see the horizon. When you focus so much time on grief and sorrow, sometimes hope simply gets lost. Hobby, this is a new activity that creates a horizon in a murky and dark place. New learning creates a sense of opportunity, change and hope that one day the sun will rise and the world will shine on you. For me, letting go of the past was not easy, but to do so I had to create a new horizon that will allow me to look to the future.