Play time! Why you need a list of hobbies

Posted on 21 March 2021

Play time! Why you need a list of hobbies

As we get older we stop believing there is room in our lives for play time, but hobbies are linked to better wellbeing. In this post, we explore the evidence behind this and I share my list of hobbies which might inspire you.

What are hobbies? A hobbies definition

A Google search will tell you that a hobby is an “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure”. While that sums it up very well, this definition can leave those of us feeling strapped for time feeling that having a list of hobbies is inconceivable because we do not have leisure time available to us. That is a problem and here is why…

You need to pick up hobbies for the sake of your wellbeing

While there are not too many studies on the subject, there is evidence available of the importance of having hobbies and leisure activities to your health and wellbeing. Back in 2009 a team of researchers pooled almost 1400 participants together from 4 other studies as part of a cohort study. This means taking a group of people at a single point in time and seeing if there are associations between two characteristics from them. A slight limitation was that the participants were quite a heterogeneous population (they did not all share similar demographics), however this was later controlled for in the results. The research group decided to look at the participants’ engagement in enjoyable leisure activities using a survey they devised as well as several health and wellbeing parameters: self-perceived physical health, mental wellbeing, blood pressure, cortisol (stress hormone) levels, BMI and waist circumference.

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They found that people who participated more in enjoyable leisure activities, i.e. who devoted more time to their hobbies, had better health and wellbeing across all of those metrics. Participating more in hobbies was linked to lower blood pressure, cortisol, BMI and waist circumference. People who spent more time on hobbies also suffered less from low mood and depression and had a more positive perspective on both their physical and mental health. Now it’s not necessarily gold standard evidence, but it reinforces something we intuitively and logically know and gives us justification for our play time on hobbies rather than that time being considered wasteful.

How to think of a list of hobbies to try

With us being so busy with work and family life as well as Pandemic Fatigue sapping out motivation is can be really difficult to figure out what hobbies to try. It might even be intimidating to think of a whole list of hobbies if you’re someone who has not engaged in your own leisure time for many year. But now you know it is important for your health, here are a few ways to think about it that might help:

  1. Try something old. Was there something you loved to do growing up that you’ve lost touch with? Dust off that old guitar or your old sports gear and try it again.
  2. Try something new. Perhaps there is something you have always want to do but have never had the time or the opportunity. The pandemic has arguably presented a better opportunity that ever with working from home to pursue it. Now is the time.
  3. Tap into your child-like curiosity. In the same way that children can creatively make fun and games from very little, we want to evoke that same joy from our hobbies. Think about times you have felt that way and what you were doing. You might find you will build a list of hobbies with very little effort.

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My list of hobbies and some examples of hobbies to pick up

I have created many a bucket list of hobbies over the years but I wanted to share some of my ideas from the last year so that might inspire you. So here goes in our usual EMTS style:


  • Cooking Take a Masterclass; join the social media trends #bananabread; exchange recipes with friends. I’ve dabbled in a Masterclass and found it fun to expand my cooking repertoire. Definitely plenty more to enjoy and I know it can get frustrating thinking of new things to cook all the time but making it a learning or more sociable experience adds so much to it.


  • Walking This has been my crutch mentally and physically during the pandemic. Build up to 10k steps a day, try to get into some nature you can find locally and minimise distractions for a mindful experience.
  • Cycling I hated cycling in Oxford when at uni but it has been great to explore so many scenic areas around where I live. It is so refreshing to do a weekend cycle.
  • Skipping I picked this up as part of a workout programme and it is such an easy at-home workout but also fun to learn all the tricks. Working towards that double skip!
  • Football I used to play weekly with work colleagues so I miss this a lot. I know we are limited by social distancing but as things open up we can start playing more group games in the park again. For now I’m happy kicking a ball around in the kitchen!
  • Gardening People who are into gardening absolutely love it and I can see the therapeutic value. I have not done much of this but it is definitely a great way to get out of the house in a purposeful way.


  • Music Listening to music is definitely a mood lifter. Playing it is so mindful when you get into it too. I got my old Tabla out and have been jamming now and then but I’d like to work through my old exercises again too to rebuild my skills.
  • Gaming I know parents may hate this suggestion and I am definitely not endorsing addictive behaviours with gaming or anything else; however these days you can play so many games online with friends and it is such a great way to regularly socialise and have conversations that do not centre on the pandemic. Whether it is Chess or FIFA, why not play with your friends online and chat while you do it?


  • Reading Find a pocket of time to read a bit, even if just 10 minutes before bed like me. It seems despite being at home more a lot of people have lost their reading habit. Before that I really enjoyed listening to Blinkist for short audiobook summaries {get 20% off from my affiliate link here but now I really enjoy a bit a reading on my Kindle in bed to wind down to sleep. It has no backlight and I keep dim red lighting in my bedroom making falling asleep so much easier.
Mmhmm slides

Building your hobbies and play time as a habit

As with everything, lifestyle and behaviour change comes down to daily habits. Play time or hobbies is like any other habit. Break down and set your self a target, such as 2 hours per week or 20 minutes per day. That way even if you do not know which on your list of hobbies to pursue yet you will be engaging in active leisure time and building towards your favourites.

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  1. Pressman SD, Matthews KA, Cohen S, et al. Association of enjoyable leisure activities with psychological and physical well-being. Psychosom Med. 2009;71(7):725-732. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978

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