Do what makes you happy

Looking after yourself is important, mentally as well as physically. If you do things that make you happy, you’re more able to cope with the stressful things in your life.

One way of being happy is by taking up a hobby. 

The definition of a hobby is: 

Hobbies are activities, interests, or pastimes that are undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, during your own leisure time.

Hobbies can be anything that helps you to relax and forget about the stresses and strains of everyday life. We all work hard and are under pressure from several aspects, not only from our work, where we have deadlines to meet or have to constantly solve problems and issues, deal with difficult customers or colleagues, but also trying to fit in everything that comes with a family life - looking after the kids, making sure they’re on time for school and their own activities, doing their homework, and are getting the right balance of education, fitness and fun. We have to look after the household finances, making sure we stick to a budget we can afford - it’s like running a small business keeping on top of it all. We have to clean the house, cook, keep the house in good order, the garden under control. Some of us have elderly relatives we have to look out for, shopping for them, getting them to hospital appointments, the hairdressers and the chiropodist.

All of these things add to stress levels and it’s important to do things for ourselves, put us first once in a while. If we are a bit happier because we’re less stressed because we’ve enjoyed a long walk, been to a Zumba class or had a get together with friends, then we will be more able to cope with everyday life. 

When I was younger it was a lot easier to cope with life, I was able to “just get on with it” but the older I get it becomes a bit overwhelming sometimes. I think this is partly due to age but also due to modern life. Everything seems so fast paced these days, there doesn’t seem to be a moment for anything. So I try and balance things a bit by making time for relaxation - and by that I mean doing something that makes me happy. 

For me, I get satisfaction from little D.I.Y. projects; once I’ve decided what needs to be done, I think about how I’m going to do it and what materials I need to complete the job. Once everything is ready I get on with it, take my time and when finished I feel really pleased with what I’ve achieved. I’m not trained in any building skills, I only know what I learned watching my Dad and my father-in-law, and of course look at the internet if I get stuck. But spending the time immersing myself in a project takes me away from the problems and hustle of daily life and I have found that if I don’t quite finish a project on a Sunday afternoon, I almost resent having to go to work on Monday morning because I would really like to complete the job and feel the satisfaction of doing so.

Earlier this year I treated myself to a new shed / workshop, something that I’ve never had and always wanted. I’ve spent many years improvising when working on the house, setting up temporary benches outside and never being able to find the right tools or screws for the job, because my tiny shed was crammed with garden tools, bikes, toys and what turned out to be a load of rubbish. When I got the new shed I had light and power installed - no more running extension cables from the house! I built a bench and installed enough shelving to store everything neatly in an organised fashion, so now I can quickly see the tools and screws that I need for the job in hand, which makes the jobs a lot quicker. The satisfaction from being able to work like this is great.

This may sound mundane or possibly a bit sad to some but the point is - it makes me happy. I do have other interests such as gardening - I like to be out in the fresh air during the warmer months - and walking, my wife and I like to walk through local arboretums, parks and forests. I play guitar but not enough, and listen to music while I’m doing my diy. Admittedly I have a bit more time on my hands now that my children are grown up, and I have the utmost admiration for parents that had to home school during the lockdowns. Which reinforces the idea that we need to make time for ourselves; if we are happier then we become better parents, more able to cope with the trials and tribulations we face in our lives. 

Hobbies come in all forms, and you may find that you try something and it doesn’t work for you. But because there are hundreds of things to try you can move onto something else. A hobby doesn’t have to be a long  term commitment, in fact something you are able to do when you’re younger becomes harder when you’re a bit older - so choose something suited to your age and ability. 

I used to play football, go to the gym; when the kids were small I got into cycling, not competitively but as a way of spending time with the kids and being out in the fresh air. When my son became interested in football at the age of ten we used to spend Sundays watching him play, which was great fun. The next year the team were looking for a manager so I stepped forward, partly because I fancied being a manager, and partly because at the time I was working long hours six days a week and I knew it would force me to forget about work for a while. Again, it was good fun watching the boys learn and progress in the game and satisfying to know that me and my coach taught them what they knew. 

So as life progresses you can change what you do to make you happy. 

You probably have an idea of what makes you happy and may be doing already, but my advice would be to keep on doing something and make time for it. Build it into your life. Or there may be something that you’ve always wanted to do but have never got round to it - remember, things don’t change unless you make them change. If you wait until that magic moment arrives where you’ll have time to do something, you’ll probably wait forever. I would suggest you have a think about what you would like to do, research how and where locally you can do it, and make that call, or book yourself in for a place on that course. You’ll never be able to speak Italian or do ballroom dancing if you don’t enrol. Try going for a walk in the countryside, the peace and quiet can do you the power of good, and may lead you on to rambling, bird watching, photography or sketching what you see. 

My wife wanted to get a bit fitter so a couple of years ago decided she would walk to work instead of driving. It’s only a couple of miles and there is a steep hill to walk up but she’s built it into her daily routine, so she doesn’t really have to make time for it. It really wakes her up and yes, she’s fitter and has lost a little weight in the process. But the point is she enjoys it, it sets her up for the day, and on those days when the weather is terrible and she’s forced to take the car, it affects her mood. So even if you think you’ll struggle to fit a hobby in to your lifestyle, have a think about how you could incorporate something in to your daily routine - you may find it’s easier than you think and it could do you the world of good.

Only you know what would make you happy; you don’t have to do something that takes up a lot of time. Just anything that makes you smile and feel better. As you’ve read, it’s only simple stuff that makes me happy and I’m sure it would be the same for you.