Living Longer, Feeling Older
Australians are living longer than ever before. The average Aussie now lives to an impressive 83.5 years – and we are staying at work well into our 60s. But with living and working longer comes the question – what can we do to keep ourselves feeling young and healthy, as we age? Well, the answer is creative hobbies!
Eating healthy foods, engaging in regular physical activity, and attending regular medical check-ups are all the recommended ways that people can safeguard their health well into their ‘golden years’. However, research shows that we shouldn’t just be sticking to this paradigm only. So, what is the unlikely answer to the question of aging? Creative hobbies.
Creative Hobbies and Happiness
According to a study on Aging by Dr Bradley J Fisher at Missouri State University, creative hobbies are a great way to stay healthy and happy while aging. His research found that there are six main factors to aging well: Sense of Purpose, Interactions with Others, Personal Growth, Self-acceptance, Autonomy, and Health. He found that creative activities help people age well by fostering a sense of purpose, growth, and competence.
As children, we are actively encouraged to play and be creative. We are taught a myriad of artistic activities throughout our school years. We all know that creativity aids in healthy cognitive development for children – most if not all of us enjoyed some form of creative hobby as a child, just for the fun of it! So why do we stop?
At some point, the emphasis on doing a ‘good job’ overtakes the pure pleasure of self-expression – art for art’s sake. From around the age of seven, children begin to be aware of the judgement of others. They begin to fear rejection and thus become aware of how their artistic endeavour may be perceived by others. Due to this inner critic, many children stop drawing at about the age of nine or ten.
Making time for Creative Hobbies
When was the last time you picked up a paint brush, or took a pottery class? Many people do remain creative throughout their lives, but unfortunately due to this worry of not doing a ‘good job’, many will have gone years without nurturing their creative side, no matter how much they want to.
The benefits of creative hobbies for our brains don’t reduce as we get older. If anything, creative hobbies are just as important for older people as they are for little kids. Doing creative activities has a meditative effect on the mind and body and has even been found to release natural anti-depressants.
Whether you want to do woodworking, cooking, gardening, creative writing, or learn to play the oboe, trying a new (or old!) creative hobby is a fantastic way of keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy. You might discover a hidden passion that you never knew you had!
The Benefits of Creative Hobbies
It’s time to learn to play again! Here are the 6 ways creative hobbies can help keep you young.
1. Sense of Purpose
It’s important for people to feel like they’re part of something or working towards a goal. Creative hobbies give a sense of meaning to life as well as a sense of accomplishment when a project is finished. Taking up a creative hobby can be a good way of supporting personal goals and a sense of responsibility over something other than ourselves.
2. Interactions with Others
It’s important to stay social at any age. Picking up a new hobby can be a fun activity to do with your friends and family, as well as a great way to help you to meet new people. Some art centres nowadays even offer ‘Paint and Wine’ classes to help you learn a new creative skill in a social environment (not that you need alcohol to have fun). Who knows, you might meet your new best friend over an easel!
3. Personal Growth
The act of making art involves creating something out of nothing. By learning a new artistic skill, you will be challenged to improve your work and to learn techniques that you may never have tried before. In addition to helping us understand our world, art helps us understand ourselves and is often used as a tool for therapy.
Many studies point to a link between creative arts, and self-acceptance. Research from the University College London found that creating art can “validate the uniqueness of an individual, which gives rise to a sense of accomplishment and to feelings of self-worth”.
As we age, many people begin to feel a loss of control over their lives. Needing to visit a doctor more often, having to be cared for by others, or even living with a disability is bound to make anyone feel a loss of independence. So, taking part in any hobby can be a great way to bring a feeling of autonomy back into life.
Numerous studies suggest a link between increased depression among older people and a higher risk of serious health problems and cognitive decline. Creativity has many scientific benefits to maintaining physical and mental wellbeing, ranging from combating dementia to releasing natural anti-depressants in the brain. Some creative activities, such as journaling, has been found to boost the immune-system!
A Cavalcade of Creative Hobbies
The options are endless – here are some ideas.
- Painting, drawing and sketching
- Take a studio art class or life-drawing class
- Take a pottery class or create sculptures
- Learn to cook or bake new recipes
- Creative writing and journaling
- Learn a musical instrument
- Learn origami or paper crafts
- Join a book club or a film club
- Learn to home-brew beer or ferment kombucha
- Grow a garden or take part in a community garden
- Start a blog or a YouTube channel
- Design your own clothes or learn to tie-dye clothes
- Start a scrapbook or use a colouring-in book
- Knitting, needlework, macramé and weaving
- Take a dance class
- Learn woodwork or furniture making
- Flower arranging
- Take an acting or improv class
- Make your own candles
- Start jewellery making or bead work
- Learn calligraphy and letter work
- Build tiny birdhouses for your garden
- Learn to create digital art or 3D printing
- Redecorate your home or learn Feng-Shui
- Make your own jams and preserves