HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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From filling moments of loneliness to the satisfaction of enriching self-confidence, volunteering offers many health benefits, especially for those who are now retired and in search of quality-of-life experiences.


On another Tuesday, the head nurse shared with me the multiple conditions another patient was facing. These included stage three cancer, and he had fallen at home and broken his hip. I could sense his sadness and depression. I noticed he had not touched his breakfast.


“It looks like that breakfast tray is ready for someone to eat,” I said. By describing what I saw, I avoided blame or criticism and instead became prescriptive, encouraging him to eat what was on his tray. He said the food wasn’t what he usually chose for breakfast. I understood it was not appetizing to him.


“What would make you Happy Right Now?” I asked. A smile slowly came to his face as he reminisced about his favorite breakfast — scrambled eggs, soft, and biscuits and gravy. And yes, strong coffee. “Give me a minute and I’ll be right back,” I said. I went to the head nurse’s office and explained his situation. She checked his chart and immediately called down for his breakfast of choice. I went back and shared the good news with him. I told him I would come back to make sure the breakfast reorder made his day. After visiting another patient, I checked on him and sure enough, I found an empty plate and a happy patient. His smile is something I will never forget.

HAVE YOU TAKEN TIME TO BRIGHTEN SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE?

brought them to need inpatient care. They want to learn more about their condition and how it can be managed or prevented in the future.


I remember the time I walked into a patient’s room as he was being prepared for discharge. He said he had created a real problem for himself during the past several years. He had alienated all his family members. They tried to encourage him to address his condition, but he warded them off with denial and anger. He was trying to figure out how to heal the destruction he had created among his spouse and his children. Together, but with his lead, we discussed some steps he might consider taking to deal with his current needs. He realized it would make him feel better to work on a plan to reengage his family members and discuss the pain he had created because of his anger and denial.


Volunteering makes an immeasurable difference in the lives of many individuals facing difficulties in their journey through life. There are rich and rewarding benefits when you give back. Research shows volunteers have longer lives, less disease and better overall health. Brown et al. (2005) found people who volunteer over 100 hours a year are some of the healthiest people in the United States.

DR. THOMAS W. MILLER, PH.D, ABPP

Thomas W. Miller, Ph.D., ABPP, is a Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist, Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention, University of Connecticut and Professor Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine and Department of Gerontology, College of Public Health, University of Kentucky.

more articles by dr thomas W. Miller

The periods of loneliness some people experience in retirement inspired me to volunteer at a local hospital. I spend my Tuesdays visiting patients who may not have someone with whom to share their thoughts and feelings as they journey through the challenging experiences of being sick, infirm and hospitalized.


My first stop is meeting with the head nurse on the unit. She identifies patients who may benefit from a visit and appreciate a chance to share their concerns. From there, I go to see individuals I have never known or met before. Equipped with the most positive and optimistic attitude I have, I also bring my listening ear because the individuals I am visiting need me to take to the issues and concerns they are dealing with. For many, while they lie in a hospital bed, they are on a very special journey with numerous questions and concerns. Having experienced hospitalization myself, I know about those long hours with special precautions and limited activity. Each day is filled with lab work and visits from various healthcare professionals. It is a lonely time. Patients ponder their present condition and wonder where they are headed.


When I enter a room, I bring no questions, but rather an open mind. I’m ready to let the patient take me where they want to go. This requires being a good listener. Because I have been there, I know some of the questions that arise in their minds. They are thinking about what