Why hobbies are our souls’ vitamin

    We can sleep for eight hours every night, have a balanced diet and go to the gym for a healthy body, but where’s a healthy body there has to be a healthy soul too. Is there a better way to make your soul happy than doing something you love?

    Hobbies are like the leaves falling during autumn: they’re not a mandatory part of our lives, but they make it more colorful and beautiful, even during rainy periods. A hobby makes us live unique experiences, shapes us and gives us a break from the chaos of our daily lives.

    A hobby can be something we do to pass the time or use as a coping mechanism such as baking tons of brownies during the pandemic or to bond with other people such as crocheting on with our grandmothers. It can be something we have had an attraction to since we were little, or even something we first tried as a joke when we were in our teens.

    According to Eurostat, high-quality leisure activities, like hobbies, sports, and cultural events can boost both mental and physical health and increase overall life satisfaction. A balanced lifestyle and adequate leisure time are important for our well-being.

    Veronika is 19 years old, she’s from Ukraine and opened her own pastry shop at the age of 14. Veronika has liked helping her mom with cooking and baking ever since she was little, but her real passion for baking started almost six years ago. Unexpectedly her mother won a certificate for the discount in a pastry school. “She asked me if I wanted to go and I thought ‘Why not?’”. So for a month she learned how to make different pastries. After that, she continued to practice at home and made other sweet treats for her family, and at the same time, she started her Instagram page. “In some time people started asking me to make something sweet for them, which felt pretty random at the time.”

    Kawtar is an English teacher from France, whose passion for literature turned into a lifelong dream and published her first book: a poetry collection in 2020. Her passion for writing started when she took American Literature in college and discovered literature, poetry, and writers and then tried to write her own. From that standing point, she realised she loved writing and she wanted to make something out of it. “Annabell by Edgar Allen Poe is also a poem that made me want to write. The sound of the letters and the atmosphere made me want to write a poem like this and formed my love for poetry.”

    Lucia is a Journalism student and her passion for photography has been with her for as long as she can remember because her dad was a photographer and she grew up with cameras lying around the house. She was around five or six when she held a camera for the first time, but she became aware it was a real passion of hers when she was around 13 or 14 years old. “It was something I did to express myself and to get my feelings out some other way.”

    Lucia | Her personal archive

    Hobbies are different for everyone because at the end of the day, every human is different and enjoys different things. For example, I would rather wrestle a crocodile than do crocheting, but you might find crocheting incredibly relaxing and interesting. As long as you can find peace and bits of yourself in what you practice, it means it’s the right habit for you.

    Hobbies are good for us, even physically speaking. When we do something that makes us happy, our brains release chemical messengers – such as dopamine – which long-term can help with depression or anxiety. They create a space that encourages us to learn or discover new skills, get out of our comfort zone and find the courage and support to figure ourselves out.

    “I must have been five or six years old when I held a camera for the first time. I felt quite silly, because it felt like I was trying to mimic my dad. It felt like I was in control. I was a very socially anxious kid and I used to run away from people. so I’m talking severe social anxiety. But when I had the camera and I would even point it at people, I would feel in control of what’s happening around me”, Lucia told me.

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    A picture Lucia took | Her personal archive

    Being passionate about something means putting a part of your soul into what you do. You can do something just for yourself and slowly realize it’s becoming an actual part of you, or you can do something that other people can review and encourage you to continue. Not all hobbies can help you make money out of them, but in Veronika’s case, her passion for pastry allows her to have fun and make her own money. At the age of 14, she already started making her own money and stopped asking her parents to buy her the things she wanted. Though the financial benefit is not the main reason she kept going, it was the positive feedback and the encouragement she received from her clients.  “My favorite thing is when people are satisfied and they give me incredibly positive feedback. Those words make me feel like I’m doing the right thing and I should continue.”

    Just like we consider and refer to a good friend as a family member, hobbies can grow from passions or habits to a part of who we are and evolve into lifestyles. ­The chemical messengers our brains release when we take part in a hobby make us feel pleasure, which leads to motivation and the need to do and feel that happiness again. That is how something becomes a hobby according to the brain’s reward system. So, even if we’re not immediately fans of something, as soon as we can associate it with pleasure, this reward system will make us want to do it again. Sometimes, these hobbies can become lifestyles, and even be a part of our future.

    “I think it’s both a hobby and a lifestyle. On one hand, I can continue to develop my pastry business and in the future open my own cafe and become as successful as Pierre Hermé for example. I’m kidding. There are two options: the first one it that I open my own restaurant, ideally a hotel, which I design all by myself and it becomes successful and famous. The second variant is that I find a great job and still have my pastry business as a hobby and a source of additional money. Also, if for instance if anything happens and I have to change a country or job, I’m going to have my pastry business as a safety pillow”, says Veronika.

    “It’s not a hobby because it’s part of who I am, and with hobbies – you sometimes get tired of them. I wouldn’t say it’s a lifestyle, I think it’s a strong personal belief that we have to hold on to. That’s how I see the power of writing and the power of words, because it’s a whole new universe on its own and it helps you find serenity in it“, says Kawtar.

    “It’s definitely not just a hobby, it’s a passion, I can’t imagine my life without it. I definitely can see myself not do it for money, but I can’t see myself without it because it’s been part of my life for so long and I don’t think I could ever stop. I don’t see why I could stop loving it, so you could say it is a lifestyle. For me, photography is about capturing moments from my life so I always have something to look back on. Yeah, we have memories, but memories don’t always stick, it’s different to have a photo or a video. You remember exactly what happened that day. And I want to be able to show people the life that I lived so yeah, photography is a lifestyle”, says Lucia.

    Creativity is something that comes and goes in waves and we have to accept it. Sometimes we’re so into it, sometimes, we’re not.

    says Kawtar.

    Hobbies are often good for discovering yourself, but they’re also a window through which people can catch a glimpse of who you are. Whatever feeling it is that you are experiencing will impact the story you’re telling. And even if you love what you do, there can still be periods in your life when you want to stop. The human mind is complex and you cannot always get to the root of all your negative thoughts or decisions, therefore a break is not the end of the world.

    “In times where I was at my lowest I couldn’t bring myself to write. Creativity is something that comes and goes in waves and we have to accept it. Sometimes we’re so into it, sometimes, we’re not. So many authors go through it, when they don’t feel like writing or don’t have inspiration. It’s a self journey and it’s about trying to sustain this will to create something”, says Kawtar.

    Kawtar’s poetry collection | Instagram

    Lucia says there wasn’t a time when she didn’t want to do photography anymore, but when she was a teenager, she didn’t want to make it her job. She felt that making money of it would ruin the fun of it, as photography has always been a way she could express herself.  “Photography has always been something I only do for myself, not for money, not for other people. When I started out, I wouldn’t show my pictures to anybody. I would take pictures, edit them, and then be done with them because they were only for myself. I still got the feeling that I don’t want to practice it anymore, but that has to do with me not thinking that my work is good and it makes me frustrated and want to stop so I can start something that I might actually be good at.”

    Veronika cannot remember ever having wanted to stop baking and making pastries. Though having this kind of business can be overwhelming sometimes, especially around Christmas and Easter, when the orders increase significantly and you have so much to work, you get to a point when you want to just stop and not do anything at all. “But the most important thing is rest. It’s crucial to have some time when you’re not working and doing anything, in order not to become burned out.”

    We could look up the word “art” in the dictionary and we would find out that it means “creating things that are beautiful or that express feelings”. The connection between hobbies and art is tight, as artistic hobbies allow us to not only explore our own interests, but to find out and make connection with other cultures, places, traditions, or people and learn from them. When you get to know multiple perspectives, ways of thinking and where other people get ideas from, it’s easier to find inspiration wherever you go, or to know where to look for it.

    “My inspiration varies. Sometimes I get inspired from the other types of art that I make, from my writing or a sketch, sometimes I get inspired from music or from movies. I look up on Pinterest for ideas or it could be a topic that interests me. Sometimes there are things that I feel should be raised awareness on or I can just get inspired by people”, says Lucia.

    “I’m not sure that I have a favorite poem that I wrote, but I think there were moments where I would be alone and I would feel at peace. There is a poem that I wrote about how we are still a realm in progress and I wrote this one on the balcony, and I was looking at the sky and there were stars in the sky and I came up with this metaphor of humans being a realm in progress because sometimes we glow or sometimes we explode and I’m pretty proud of that line”, says Kawtar.

    I’ve been amazed by Veronika’s cakes for three years now, and the entire process she’s going through to make her pastries still seems incredible to me. Her cakes look surreal and if I didn’t know they’re real and homemade, I would’ve believed they’re decorations.

    To end this article on a sweet note, of course, I couldn’t interview a baker and not ask her what her favorite pastry that she’s ever made is. “It’s a tough question because I have a lot of them. In general I love cakes where I have the opportunity to create something extraordinary. For instance, I once made a cake which looked like a volcano and there was smoke coming out of it. I’m also working now on a project where I have to draw Japanese symbols on small chocolate sweets. And if they turn out good, I think it also will be one of my favorite things I’ve ever made.”