The Pain of the Pleasure: Neglected Hobbies

If you’ve lost interest in a hobby because of porn, pick it up again in recovery.  If you’ve never had a hobby, get one.  Hobbies, like addictions, are mood changers.  They give a sense of satisfaction, provide feelings of happiness, restore your energy and keeps you focused and interested.  Most of my clients report that boredom is the biggest trigger to porn addiction.  A hobby is an antidote to boredom.

A point of interest in this article from The New York Times is that involvement in a hobby can produce a “flow state” which is associated with peak performance.  This state of mind produces the same “feel good” endorphins and neurotransmitters in the brain that are produced by porn.

Hobbies Are Rich in Psychic Rewards

The New York Times

By EILENE ZIMMERMAN

Published: December 2, 2007

Q. Between work and family, you have little time or energy left for hobbies, like crafts, painting or music. Without them, though, life feels mundane. What can you do about it

A. Squeeze them in, even it’s for just a few minutes at a time, because those moments can change your mood and your mind-set.

When people do things that make them feel good, like a hobby, it activates an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens that controls how we feel about life, said Dr. S. Ausim Azizi, chairman of the department of neurology at Temple University’s School of Medicine in Philadelphia who studies brain activity and cell signaling. Activities you enjoy also stimulate the brain’s septal zone — its “feel good” area — and that makes you feel happy, said Dr. Azizi.

Q. Are hobbies good for you?

A. Yes, and in many ways. Hobbies can enhance your creativity, help you think more clearly and sharpen your focus, said Carol Kauffman, an assistant clinical professor at HarvardMedicalSchool. “When you’re really engaged in a hobby you love, you lose your sense of time and enter what’s called a flow state, and that restores your mind and energy,” she said. In a flow state, you are completely submerged in an experience, requiring a high level of concentration. Research shows strong correlations between flow states and peak performance, said Ms. Kauffman.

Being in that heightened state of concentration raises the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain — chemicals like endorphins, norepinephrine and dopamine — that keep you focused and interested in what you’re doing and that energize you, said Dr. Gabriela Corá, a psychiatrist who is managing partner of the Florida Neuroscience Center and president of Executive Health and Wealth Institute, an executive coaching firm in Miami.

“Making time for enjoyable activities stimulates parts of the brain associated with creative and positive thinking. You become emotionally and intellectually more motivated,” she said.

Hobbies also enhance self-esteem and self-confidence. Feeling that you are solely defined by your job — even if it is going well — can raise your chances of experiencing anxiety, depression and burnout, because you don’t have a perception of yourself outside of work, said Michelle P. Maidenberg, a psychotherapist and business coach in New York, and clinical director of Westchester Group Works, a center for group therapy.

“When people rely only on their role at work to foster self-esteem, that alone cannot typically fulfill their needs,” she said. If you are unhappy with your work performance, you are more inclined to define yourself as inadequate, but if your identity is varied — businesswoman, mother, wife, painter, cook — you can reflect on your success in those other things, she said.

QCan a hobby make you better at your job?

A. Yes, because doing something you enjoy can help you think more creatively and give you confidence. Ms. Kauffman said a hobby could even help prepare you for a difficult meeting, making you more sure of yourself and energetic. “Let’s say you are passionate about opera. Google your favorite opera piece and listen for five or six minutes,” she said. “That positive emotion builds your cognitive and social skills. If you follow your bliss for a little while, it really gives you a surge of energy.”

Challenging and stimulating hobbies may inspire ideas that will help you at work — leading, for example, to a new approach to making presentations, solving problems or meeting a client’s needs. “Any time you take a break from routine, you develop new ways of thinking,” said Gail McMeekin, a psychotherapist and owner of Creative Success, a career coaching company in Boston and author of “The Power of Positive Choices.”

Ms. McMeekin said that by tapping into our creativity through hobbies, we make connections that lead to a flurry of insights and new ideas.

Q. Life is so busy. How do you make time for a hobby?

A. If you start thinking of your hobby as something that helps you professionally as well as personally, you won’t feel so guilty about making time for it.

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