Pocket worthyStories to fuel your mind

Five Tips to Help You Start New Hobbies in Retirement

Hobbies can increase wellbeing in retirement but it can be daunting choosing what to do.

The Conversation

Read when you’ve got time to spare.

older men running for exercise.jpg

PeopleImages.com - Yuri A/Shutterstock

Retirement can be an exciting but also scary prospect for many. How you fill your time is totally up to you, but with so many choices it can be a bit daunting. But it’s important to make sure you keep active, physically and mentally.

Hobbies can increase wellbeing by boosting brain function, enhancing social skills and improving fine motor skills. A study carried out in 2022 found that spending time on hobbies was associated with lower symptoms of depression and a perceived increase in a person’s sense of health, happiness and overall life satisfaction.

However, many older people don’t take up hobbies for all sorts of reasons. This might include fears that they are not as good at something in their older age as they were when they were younger. This fear of trying new things can lead to increased feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Here are five tips using positive psychology that could help you or someone in your life if they are scared or nervous about picking up a hobby.

1. Broaden your strengths

Our idea of what we are good at is formed at a very young age and often reflects subjects that we were good at in our school days. Positive psychology’s “theory of strengths” encourages us to think more broadly about what constitutes a strength. For instance, it considers curiosity, kindness and bravery as strengths. When applied to choosing a hobby, it means that if you believe one of your strengths is kindness, you could consider working in outreach or charity as a hobby or spending time speaking with people who are housebound.

2. Find activities you already enjoy

The “broaden and build theory” suggests that when we feel positive emotions such joy or love, we are more likely to engage in new activities, thoughts and behaviours. It follows then, that if you look at times in your life when you experience these emotions this could help you start a new hobby. So, if you enjoy walking in the countryside, then the theory suggests that those feelings would enable you to join a rambling club.

If you know you enjoy reading or discussing books with friends, joining a book club might be a good hobby. Pixel-shot/shutterstock

3. Remember moments you’ve lost track of time

Another way to identify an activity that would be good to do is by using “flow theory”. This suggests that when we are doing something that we become completely absorbed in, that our brainwave patterns change and we can lose track of time. For this to happen, we need an activity that is meaningful to us to complete, with just the right amount of challenge so that it is not too easy or too hard.

An exercise that reveals your personal flow template involves looking back on your life to find as many times as possible when you’ve been doing something and completely lost track of time. Write these down and see if these moments have anything in common. For example, are they all creative activities or all outdoors and physical? This will reveal something about yourself and the type of activity that is aligned with who you are, and could suggest new hobbies.

4. Be kind to yourself

Self-compassion theory” teaches us the importance of being as kind to ourselves as we would be to a friend. When we are thinking about what we are good at, we can be unkind to ourselves by comparing ourselves unfavourably to others or to an imagined high standard.

Self-compassion theory states that our imperfections make us human, and it is our shared knowledge of this that connects us to others. Where a goal in an activity is kindness with ourselves and those doing the activity with us rather than performance, we can access a new more meaningful reason to take part in something.

5. Imagine your perfect day

The last tip from positive psychology involves creating a story of the perfect average day and then planning to actually live it. How do your hobbies fit into this? How does this day tap into your broadened idea of your strengths? How does it include kindness to yourself and others?

It also helps to identify goals either for retirement more generally or for participating in a hobby. By picturing the perfect average day you can create more meaning and purpose in life by seeing how all the parts of your life fit together. It also reveals short term goals for example, if you plan to go to an art club but can’t get there, then a goal could be asking for a lift from another club member. When these pieces are in place, hope is ignited, and a vision created of how life can go forward so that you really can live your best retired life.

Alison Bishop is a lecturer in Positive Psychology Coaching at the University of East London.

How was it? Save stories you love and never lose them.

Logo for The Conversation

This post originally appeared on The Conversation and was published April 15, 2024. This article is republished here with permission.

The Conversation brings you insights and analysis from academic experts, straight to your inbox.

Get the daily newsletter