Creative Hobbies To Take Your Mind Off Work
Illustration by Mr Nick Hardcastle
Arty activities to get you off the sofa this winter – and generally make you happier.
In our hyper-connected and ever-stressful age, we are now often being advised to “switch off” as much as possible – to escape from worries of work and relax in proactive ways, for a more a “balanced” and “mindful” life. But realistically, it isn’t always easy to find the time or indeed the energy to “better ourselves”, particularly at this time of year. In fact, there’s nothing more tempting on a cold, dark evening than setting yourself down in front of the latest compulsive Netflix show for an hour (or five). But long stretches on the coach can end up being a little bit… what’s the word… depressing.
The solution? Take up an arty hobby. Indulging in an active, creative pastime that helps the mind detach from work and recover can ultimately make you feel happier and more fulfilled. A study carried out by San Francisco State University psychology professor Dr Kevin Eschleman in 2014 found that employees with a creative hobby felt more relaxed and in control than those without – which in turn fed into their jobs, leading them to be on the whole more helpful, collaborative and creative at work, too. Here are three suggestions of creative hobbies to get stuck into, and why they should help bring a bit of joy as the days draw in.
The most effective creative hobbies combine simple-to-understand tasks with an element of challenge – enough to hold focus and divert your attention, but not too much to cause stress. Life-drawing classes fulfil all these requirements, as well as offering a few hours of peace and quiet in a calm environment where the primary task is just to look, and draw. And what’s particularly satisfying is the pleasing finiteness to the practice – once the pose has finished – whether that’s after 30 seconds or 30 minutes, the model moves, and you are forced you to let go and move on.
How to do it: life drawing is notoriously difficult to master, so start off slow with a drop-in class where you pay by the session. They tend to be a little more relaxed – but still offer guidance – and mean you don’t need to commit to a course with strict objectives. Try using charcoal to draw for your first few sessions – it creates a more fluid effect than a harsh pencil line and can be smudged to adapt the shapes while you’re still learning.
Have you ever thought about how your favourite leather shoes, jacket or bag was made? Fancy giving it a go yourself? Leather working is an age-old craft ideal for the more utilitarian among us, who want a finished product from their hobby that they can actually put to use. Now we’re not suggesting you eschew purchasing the wares of our favourite master craftsman in favour of all your own creations. But we do like the idea of adding a special bespoke item to the collection. Crafting your own leather piece is a complex process, with many different design elements, which makes it the perfect longer-term creative hobby for those who want to sink their teeth into to something a bit meatier.
How to do it: a course is a good way to get started, and make sure to decide what you want to make before googling the right course for you. And then, if it takes your fancy, you can buy the tools and leathers to continue at home.
We’ve all wished we could recreate that scene from Ghost at some point in our lives, but generally out of a passion for Ms Demi Moore (or Mr Patrick Swayze, as it may be) as opposed to a passion for clay. However, pottery-making – whether at a wheel or free-hand – is an extremely good method of stress-relief – practitioners often talk of “working out” negative feelings with the clay. Perhaps that’s why so many people in East London are constantly producing such hideously ugly pots. In any case, it is a pleasingly tactile creative hobby that promotes dexterity, can aid hand-eye coordination, and is now often used as a form of cognitive rehabilitation – as well as providing you with some hopefully very artful ceramics to flash around at dinner parties at the end of it all.
How to do it: look for a studio that offer memberships as well as classes so you can improve your skills outside of taught sessions, and check whether materials and firing fees are included or you could end up investing rather more than you’d realised into that handmade coffee mug. Be prepared to get a bit dirty and perhaps consider leaving your latest MR PORTER purchases at home.