Person reading book

It’s so easy to get on a seemingly endless treadmill of work, chores, chauffeuring children, cooking, cleaning, sleeping—and repeat.

But stop—before you hit a wall.

“You need to do things that bring you joy and peace so you can re-center, refocus and reenergize,” says Mariam Wahby, PhD, LMFT-S, manager of behavioral health education at Memorial Hermann Health System.

Can Hobbies Help?

“You may think making time for a hobby is selfish,” she says. “But it can enable you to have the right mindset.”

When you’re feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed or low, focused yet fun endeavors can offer an escape hatch and a positive coping mechanism. You even may acquire new skills and a strong support system.

“You’re more likely to have a higher level of productivity after pleasurable pursuits. Then you can become better at the other things you do.”

How Can I Choose?

You may not remember the last time you did something solo to satisfy yourself, not to mention the things that brought you glee.

“Think about what makes you happy and energizes you. That will point you in a direction,” Dr. Wahby says.

Don’t apply pressure or a deadline. “It’s for your own enjoyment, so you can move from one hobby to another until you find the right fit.”

Suit your personality. “Some find satisfaction pushing through challenges,” she says. “Others get frustrated. If it feels like a chore, the pastime is not serving the purpose it was intended to do, which is to bring peace and relaxation.”

If you’re a closet comedian or performer, step up to the mic at a comedy club or karaoke bar. Scared? Bring a friend.

Consider expanding your horizons by learning a new language or diving into an intriguing historical period. “Reading is a hobby that enables you to connect with other cultures, ideas and people,” Dr. Wahby says.

If you’re a nature-lover, you could take a hike or join a runners’ club. Restorative yoga might unfurl your bliss, as could an actual treadmill.

How Can I Fit My Passion Into My Busy Life?

“SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely,” she says.

Once you settle on a diversion, “make it accessible and attainable.” For instance, there aren’t a ton of opportunities to scale mountains in Houston, though some health clubs offer indoor rock climbing.

Be realistic in your approach. If you’ve never run before, don’t sign up for a marathon. Start with a jog around the block. And if your only free time is a few minutes a day, you can’t expect to devote a quarter of your life to a new passion. But five minutes at a time may be enough.

Also prepare yourself to succeed. Bring your fitness gear on errands in case you have time to hit the gym or take a book to read while waiting in the school pickup line.

Finally, keep yourself accountable. “Let people know your goals, and maybe invite them to join you,” Dr. Wahby says. “Also write down your hopes and keep a progress log. But don’t pressure yourself. Be SMART—even while at play.”

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