At the beginning of the pandemic, when everyone was stuck at home with quite literally nowhere to go, several people decided to pick up or even develop a new skill. Some honed their baking skills, some learned how to make whipped coffee, some learned how to draw and some took up knitting. After becoming proficient in these skills, some chose to sell their products on websites for independent artists, such as Redbubble and Etsy, or at their local farmer’s market to profit from their craft. While some have made a little money thanks to their side-hustle, several people have seen their hobby grow from something they did as a pastime to a full-fledge business.
Creativity and entrepreneurship are important skills for people to have, and it’s great that many people took their time in quarantine to be productive, but it’s essential to keep in mind that the main purpose of having a hobby is not to create something just to make a profit. Instead, people need to go back to viewing hobbies as a way to destress and focus on something that brings them joy without worrying about how many sales they have made or how big their budget is.
There are many benefits to having a hobby and making money off it, while a bonus is not the sole benefit. Hobbies can increase people’s confidence, allow for people to destress, and help people socialize with others both in-person and online. For example, people can join a knitters club held at their local library to knit with people that are just as passionate about the craft as they are. They can also join a Facebook group created for and by people who love knitting to discuss their current knitting projects or talk about the current issues facing the knitting industry with people all around the country.
From a psychological perspective, hobbies are significant for people’s emotional and mental health. When a person has a little bit of free time on their hand after work and before dinner, they can either scroll on Instagram mindlessly, or they can invigorate their mind by getting lost in an art project, puzzle or baking recipe. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihályi, whose research focuses on happiness and creativity, describes this state of mind as being in a “flow state,” or to be “in the zone.”
Csíkszentmihályi has theorized that people are happiest when they are in this cognitive state and at their most productive. In order to achieve this state, the activity at hand can’t be too easy because then the mind wanders off, nor can it be too difficult to complete that could potentially allow for frustration to occur. The activity must fall somewhere in the middle- not too easy, but not too challenging, for flow to be established. Having a hobby is a great way to create flow and, as a result, feel happier and more productive.
It’s also important that people realize they don’t have to be the very best at their hobby, especially when they first start. In today’s world, it feels like everyone is constantly competing to be the best at everything they do, even with things considered stress-free and non-competitive. Just because someone’s painting may never hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art or their cookies may never be sold in bulk at Costco doesn’t mean that they should give up the hobby.
If someone gives up on a hobby the first time they try it just because they felt like they weren’t good at it, they will grow in their skill and improve their performance. One of the most rewarding and encouraging things to do is for people to look back at their first attempt at something and compare it to their most recent effort, and admire their growth in the skill. Even if the improvement is slight or not where they want it to be, it’s still growth, and that’s something to be proud of. To quote theater artist Konstantin Stanislavski, “play well, or play badly, but play truly.”