2020 has been a year of change. As a society, we've been through job losses, the crash of certain sectors, the rise of new ones, and a wide-sweeping overhaul of how business is done.
Many people are working from home for the first time, and the transition can be surreal. The first few days are lush – no commute to deal with, no morning traffic to worry about, and no need to change out of your pajamas (unless you have a Zoom meeting).
However, most people soon start to miss the happy buzz of office life and the simple joy of getting out of the house every day. On top of this, it's difficult to maintain a clear distinction between your work hours and your downtime, making life feel like a hazy blend of both. This can make it hard to be productive when you're meant to be working and impossible to fully relax when you clock off.
One of the best ways to clear your mind, improve your mood, and boost your productivity in this new era of social distancing is to take up a hobby or two. These activities can be deployed during breaks to refresh and inspire you for the next round of work, and then again, when you finish for the day to boost your mood and create a boundary between productivity and relaxation.
The following five hobbies are more than just entertaining diversions. They also come with life-enriching properties backed by science.
Learn a new language (the fun way)
There are many fantastic platforms for learning a new language online. However, one of the most entertaining and effective ones out there is Duolingo. The company offers a free app that gamifies language learning. Each mini-lesson takes only a couple of minutes to complete, making it perfect for getting a little dopamine hit during your work breaks.
Becoming bilingual or multilingual will work to your advantage in many ways. In addition to opening up new career and travel opportunities, there are immediate cognitive benefits to be enjoyed. Memory and executive function, problem-solving, and creativity are just a few of the areas in which you can expect improvement.
The best way to learn guitar, bass, or ukulele
If you've been struggling to learn guitar, bass, or ukulele via YouTube videos, Fender Play will revolutionise your experience. You'll be taken through a clear and logical progression of lessons, building your skills in methodical, easy-to-follow steps.
Each video lesson comes with a practice section that takes you through the tablature with a metronome and other adjustable settings. Music theory is worked in with the fun part of playing an instrument, allowing you to absorb it without feeling like you're studying.
Whichever flow toy you choose to use, you'll be able to find plenty of YouTube tutorials from which to learn moves. There's something truly special about watching a crazy looking trick, breaking it down, learning each component of it, and then mastering it. The sense of accomplishment is intoxicating in the moment, but it also washes through the rest of your day's activities, allowing you to be more focused and productive.
The two most valuable things you can give are your time and your skills, and one of the easiest ways for Australians to do this is through a site called Vollie. I've used this platform to volunteer as a copywriter and social media coordinator, and I can attest to how well it works.
All you have to do to get started is apply for campaigns you're interested in, and then negotiate terms with any charities or non-profits who accept your offer. Though the aim of this hobby is to help a good cause, you will be helping yourself in the process. In addition to the benefits of developing a generous spirit. You also get to grow and expand your skills, add to your CV, and open up a range of potential career opportunities.
If you're looking for a simple way to destress and clear your mind, some drawing tools and paper are all you need. If you struggle to sit still and relax after a day of work, drawing can keep you occupied while you settle in to watch a show or listen to your favourite podcast.
Those keen to take the hobby a bit more seriously can enrol in art courses online to develop their skills. However, there's a lot to be gained from simply free drawing and seeing what comes out.
Much like journaling, free drawing allows you to get thoughts and emotions out of your head and onto the page. However, drawing can be even more powerful because it's abstract. This means you're able to express even those feelings you can't quite put into words.
Carl Jung recommended colouring mandalas as a way to calm the mind, process thoughts and emotions, and improve overall mental health. After a good drawing session, you will likely find that your head is clearer and you're better able to concentrate on your work.
There are countless benefits to taking up hobbies. Though the ones listed here have scientific backing as to their ability to boost your cognitive powers, improve your mood, and help you be more productive, it's important to follow your heart and take up activities you have a passion for.
I'd love to hear what hobbies you've been enjoying during this era of social distancing. Feel free to comment - bonus points if I've never heard of your hobby before!