One of the great secrets of career success is spending your time well when you’re outside of work. Think about it: if you’re happy, relaxed, and creative in your time away from the office, you’re more likely to carry that good energy into the workplace. This theory is rooted in more than common sense. According to published academic research, creative endeavors outside the office can demonstrably boost work engagement and performance.
Psychologists studied employees with a mix of hobbies, careers, and personalities and determined those who engaged in creative outlets were more likely to be better problem-solvers during the workday. In fact, study participants who actively took part in creative activities scored as much as 30% higher on performance rankings than those who rarely exercised their right brains.
“Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” —Maya Angelou
The good news is that each and every hobby—not only the “creative” ones—seem to have some positive impact on your work life! It doesn’t matter whether your favorite hobby is artistic, sports-related, or cerebral, each of these categories showed some benefit on certain components of work performance, as well as on overall well-being.
The hard truth is that starting and running a business is a stressful endeavor. The late nights, early mornings, and demands on your personal time can result in poor physical and mental well-being. Finding a balance and making time for what you love outside the office is a must. Here’s the compelling evidence on why you should shut down that laptop, switch the cell to silent, and get out of the office to find some balance for yourself. These hobbies (and others) can help keep you sane and happy throughout your work week.
The Easiest Hobby: Walking
The pressures of a start-up are many and constant. Work stress, weight gain, little sleep, and long hours are par for the course. How do you make time for a hobby in the midst of all this? The good news is that you can find real benefits in only ten minutes a day with a hobby that’s FREE and accessible to all. We’re talking about something you do each day already: Walking.
Walking as a hobby and a form of exercise can yield huge boons. Just ten minutes of walking a day has vast benefits—including fighting depression, improving focus and concentration, and preserving existing healthy brain neurons, while creating new ones. That’s right, walking can literally help rewire your brain!
Boost the positive impact of your walks by heading out to a beautiful green area. If you live near a park, stop and smell the flowers. If you work from home, meeting with a friend for your walk can be an easy way to socialize. Other ways to boost the positive impact of your walks is to take your dog with you. If you don’t have a dog, you can borrow one from a friend—being around any companion animals may boost your mood.
What are you waiting for? Tie up those laces and head out for a walk!
An Anywhere, Anytime Hobby: Meditation
It’s hard to calm your mind while running a business. On the daily, there’re a million things to think of and a running to-do list. Taking time for yourself is not only necessary, but can boost rewards beyond mere stress relief. Meditation has come into focus lately as an empowering way to refocus and relax. Unlike hobbies such as running races or painting a canvas, meditation can be done anytime, anywhere, when you need a moment to reset or recharge.
To some, the idea of meditation seems out there, garnering images of sitting barefoot on the floor, while chanting. The truth is that meditation’s a healthy practice which you can fit into your busy life. Besides being a calming influence, science has shown that mediation can actually make you a more creative thinker. Another research study shows that mediation breaks down the barriers to cognitive rigidity and problem solving.
If you’re just getting started, here are some simple, practical ways to teach you how to work mediation into your daily life. Remember, like all skills, mediation’s something which’s learned, so take your time and know that even a few minutes a day can help.
Weekend Road Warriors: Endurance Sports
People who love sports know that there are few feelings on par with breaking a sweat and leaving all your frustrations out on the field (or track or pool – you get the idea)! Whether you run, bike, swim, or paddle, pushing your body to the limit outside of the office’s a way to improve your work hours. The top ten benefits of endurance sports include improved circulation (better blood flow = better brain function), more restorative sleep, and increased energy.
One of the less quantifiable, but just as amazing, benefits of endurance sports is the confidence you gain. Once you have trained for and accomplished a goal – whether that’s a couch-to-5K program or medaling in a marathon – you learn to push yourself toward what you want. The dedication, grit, and hard work required of endurance athletes in training are skills which can be parlayed into your entrepreneurial side.
The Cerebral Hobby: Reading
If you’re someone who loves books, you know the joy of diving into a new read and losing yourself in another world. If you read a lot at your job, you may not be as eager to carve out time to read for pleasure in your spare time. You should! Reading’s a terrific hobby, which can help hone your skills at the office and preserve your brain’s health.
Science has proven that reading can chill you out, documenting a lowered heart rate and reduced muscle tension after just six minutes of turning pages. Better relaxation leads to better sleep, and that’s something all of us can benefit from!
The Journal of Neurology reports that a lifetime of reading can also help improve memory as one ages. In fact, avid readers experience a whopping 32 percent lower rate of mental decline compared to their non-reader peers.
Even more amazing, avid readers are also far less likely to develop dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s disease! To quote Dr. Robert P. Friedland, the results of the brain preservation effects of reading can be explained as such: “The brain is an organ just like every other organ in the body. It ages in regard to how it is used … Just as physical activity strengthens the heart, muscles and bones, intellectual activity strengthens the brain against disease."
Keep your brain strong and vital – exercise those neurons with a book in your free time!
The Creative Endeavors: Art and Painting
You don’t have to be the next Monet to enjoy putting a brush to canvas or pencil to paper. Creating art can improve your mental and emotional states, help you relax, and help you learn to focus on the fine details.
Creating art can also cultivate a sense of optimism and well-being in the artist. As an entrepreneur, a sense of healthy optimism is the key to weathering the ups-and-downs in your growing business. Anyone can pick up a pen, pencil, or brush, so it’s definitely worth trying out art as a hobby to keep you inspired and cheerful.
Know that your time outside the office is just as valuable as your time at your desk. There are thousands of hobbies to enjoy. Find and pursue the hobby that makes you happy for myriad benefits that will better your life, both in the office and outside of it!
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