Balance is important, and we all need to find a beneficial balance of “all the things” in our lives. Having a healthy balance between our work and our hobbies is vital for our mental health. There is no such thing as a perfect balance, but defining what is a healthy or beneficial balance is a helpful way to conceptualize a realistic view of work/life “balance”. Life can be busy, and it can be difficult to find time for our existing hobbies, let alone search for a new one. Trial and error can be an effective way to find a new hobby; when you do not know where to begin, there is one way to find out – just start. By just taking the leap and beginning the journey of engaging in hobbies to see what works/ what does not work, is the place to courageously start. Who knows, maybe you will discover something totally new that can bring fulfillment and satisfaction. As we spend time with our new hobby, we begin to build new skills, and build important feelings of self-efficacy, confidence, self-trust, and self-compassion, which is critical in reducing anxiety, depression, and stress/burn-out-related symptoms.

Spending time with a new hobby can be a great way to elicit the relaxing and satisfying flow state. The time required to enter a flow state ranges from around ten to fifteen minutes of directed focus. The flow state can last anywhere from thirty minutes to a few hours. Tips for reaching the “flow state” includes, setting a goal, eliminating distractions, and challenging yourself. Clearing your space of distractions makes it easier for our mind to place its focus on our task. Setting a clear goal can keep us engaged. When the challenge becomes too easy, we can set new goals and challenges for ourselves. The goal must be achievable. If your goal is to play like Jimi Hendrix by the end of the day, but you have never picked up a guitar before, your goal may be too unrealistic. Once you identify a hobby of highest interest, it is likely you can discover the benefits of the flow state once you dive right into it in the most feasible/ approachable way.

The flow state is often referred to in psychology textbooks as being a state in which all outside influence [and pressures] is [are] melted away. Entering a flow state causes us to fully engage in the task at hand. We lose ourselves/immerse ourselves in the intersting/fascinating/satisfying/healthy and beneficial activity. For some people that looks like playing the guitar, drawing, piecing together a puzzle, or sculpting with clay or play dough. The task at hand must be challenging enough, and our skills sufficient to keep our brain from wandering. In the flow state, there is nothing else in the world other than what is being done at that moment.

Finding time to enter that flow state has great benefits for our brain and our mental health. Reaching the flow state has been proven to increase happiness, and help us develop new skills that may or may not relate directly to the task at hand.

Our lives can be hectic sometimes, and we may feel like we are losing control. Entering the flow state can help us feel control. When we are in the flow state, we are able to control the outcome and direction of our activity. The feelings of control that the flow state provides can reassure us that we have agency in our lives. Often times the search for a new hobby that puts us into a flow state can be a journey itself. Taking a chance and trying something totally new to us can be the leap of faith that results in us becoming a swell guitar player, a groovy painter, or a marvelous gardener, the possibilities are endless.

James Dietz, BA, Master’s-Level Graduate Candidate/Trainee