Finally, your day off. You’ve worked hard all week long, balancing classes, work, friends, self care and exercise. What do you do with the spare time? If you’re anything like me before I formed constructive hobbies, it involves laying in bed and scrolling, then scrolling, then getting up to get water, then watching your favorite show, then taking a nap. You open Instagram, see what people from your high school are up to, question why you aren’t doing any of the cool things they are, close the app and open it again. To wrap up your lovely day spent bed-rotting, you wash it all down with a bottle of shame for being so easily sucked down into the endless scrolling algorithms and wasting the day in bed. Does this have to be how we spend our time?

Enter: hobbies. Hobbies can be something as simple as picking up a book, taking pictures on a phone, going outside and identifying some trees, or writing reviews of your favorite movies. According to Acenda Health, hobbies can reduce stress and promote well-being. They provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment that can improve mental health. Being able to look at something you crafted, wrote, painted or drew, or even being able to say “I went outside today!” can greatly improve self esteem. For me, the times I’ve felt the lowest in my life are during breaks from school and work, when I am faced to stop the busyness and sit down with myself for an extended period of time. The obvious time fillers—social media and Netflix—end up contributing to depression, anxiety and shame. Being able to find meaning and purpose beyond the jobs we perform or the grades we earn is essential to avoiding workaholism and creating a better life. 

Hobbies are more important than ever with screen times reaching new heights and algorithms that suck us in to consume, consume, consume. But beyond helping us get away from screens, hobbies play a part in upending our Earth-killing system of consumption and discarding. If you start crocheting, you can crochet your friend a little bag that they will treasure forever. If you sew, you can stitch up your sibling’s ripped pants. In this way, hobbies help to reduce overconsumption and excessive waste. We feel no emotional attachment to the mass produced items that can be easily replaced at the nearest Target. We order cheap child-labor produced clothes at Shein and throw them away when the newest trend materializes. But would you toss your friend’s handcrafted hat they made you? Would you replace your grandpa’s chair he painted himself? The alienation from the products we consume begins to dissipate. Objects that have a personal connection take it from simply an object to part of ourselves. Furthermore, an intentional, handcrafted gift encourages reciprocity in the form of a handmade gift in return. The cycles of selfish consumption in our economic system begin to screech to a halt with the radical, countercultural act of homemade gift giving. Hobbies help to switch from a system of buying and discarding at the slightest whim to an intentional, gift economy that values human relationships. 

Are hobbies worth the hype? My answer would be a resounding yes. Hobbies are the key to a more sustainable future, they increase self esteem and boost mental well-being and they put us back in the present, physical world when technology on all sides seeks to pull us away. If you are thinking you want to experience the simple joy of hobbies yourself but don’t know where to start, I can understand what that feels like. I struggled for a long time to cultivate hobbies, and my self esteem suffered for this. From my experience, I can tell you that it seems intimidating to jump in, but remember: this is for YOU! You don’t ever have to share your poetry with anyone else. You don’t have to play guitar in front of anyone, you don’t have to post your art on social media, you don’t have to sell your handcrafted earrings. You can start small with things that bring you joy that are just for you, no one else.

Also remember that hobbies are skills that can be improved upon. No one comes out of the womb composing like Mozart. Even if you think you don’t have many skills that can be hobbies, no one starts with them! The biggest barrier in front of hobbies in my own life was the fear of failure. I put off learning how to crochet for months and months because I was scared I would be bad at it. When I started to learn, you better believe I was just as bad as I feared. But it didn’t stay that way. Pushing through the failure allowed me to actually learn a skill that I have been able to take with me and get great joy from. So next time you find yourself consuming technology and get frustrated, put the phone down and try learning a hobby. It’ll change your life.