Hobbies are everything.
The first time I paddled across a lake in my kayak, I felt a oneness with nature like I’d never felt before. It was like I was meant to be in that very moment, surrounded by water on all sides. The water is a representation of the ebbs and flows of life, and my kayak is a representation of balance. You can’t fight the water, you have to let it guide you. Water is also calm, but inherently dangerous. If you play by its rules, it can be the doorway to a new world, but if you do not, it can ultimately take your life. It’s such an exhilarating feeling. But that feeling didn’t end once my kayak adventure was over. The calmness that I felt on the water followed me onto land. The entire day I felt relaxed, happy, and untroubled. About two days later that feeling had wained and I wanted to be back on the water. It was like a drug and I needed another hit. The following weekend I packed my bags and searched for another adventure, desperately wanting to recreate what I had felt before.
This was my experience when I made a conscious decision to get a hobby. It was the best thing I had ever done for my mental health. The idle mind is a dangerous place to dwell for anybody, especially Black men.
According to BMC Public Health, Sedentary behavior, which can be described as low-energy activities, is associated with increased anxiety. The research found that activities that involve sitting down, such as watching TV, using the computer, riding the bus, and playing video games increased the risk of anxiety. The longer participants spent sitting, the more anxious they felt, regardless of achieving sufficient physical activity throughout the day. BMC also found sedentary behavior could result in an increased risk of lowered scores for self-esteem, sleep problems, and depression.
People are meant to be active. The body needs movement, the soul needs adventure, and the brain needs stimulation. Activities that physically get your body moving, but don’t require a lot of mental fortitude are great ways to revitalize your mind and clear the way for creativity to flourish. Activities like yoga, gardening, cooking, and kayaking, are great ways to achieve this. But don’t limit yourself, there is no such thing as a wrong hobby, as long as it gets the body active and lets the brain off its leash.
This is especially important for Black men. Our minds are heavy and distracted by so much. Finding a hobby can give the mind the environment it needs to quiet the noise from life’s distractions. The mind, just like any muscle, needs to be exercised properly.
Although depression rates for Black men are close to the national average, Black people are far less likely to seek treatment, electing to instead self-medicate, or self-manage their issues.
According to research by the Department of Psychiatry at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, fewer than half of the Black people who participated in the study sought treatment for their depression. Firstly, never be ashamed to seek help. If your mind isn’t in the right place and you believe you need therapy, get the help you need. But a hobby could be the beginning of guiding your mind to a better place. Being Black in America can feel like a daunting task and is sometimes exhausting. Finding the right hobby can mitigate some of that stress.
It’s time to shut off the noise and embrace change. This can only start when you decide to let go and begin anew. This new beginning starts with a hobby. I promise you, it will be the best decision you will make in a long time.