Modern life is busy. As technology has advanced, you would think that people would have more time on their hands, as tasks can be completed more efficiently. Instead, parents overschedule their children and teens feel overwhelmed by the social pressures put on them by social media. Additionally, parents may find themselves spending much of their time in the car, at their kids’ sports events or working. 

While staying busy can be a good thing, modern life leaves little time for pursuing interests, discovering hobbies or finally getting to the stack of books you’ve had sitting in the corner for years. These activities are proven to reduce stress and can help with depression. As millions have been forced to spend more time indoors while socially-isolating due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people have much more availability to find hobbies or focus on smaller individual goals. 

As my summer plans have been canceled and I have struggled to find a secure job, I have found myself with an abundance of time on my hands. Although I am still looking at possible internships and volunteer opportunities, in the meantime I have been able to dedicate my time to working out and cooking — two things that I do not usually have time to prioritize. 

With a Masterclass subscription, I have been able to take cooking classes online and finally focus on learning the basics of culinary arts. I have also been able to explore different YouTube workout programs and find the program that works best for me. I have now been intensely working out for nine weeks straight — in the past I have struggled to find time and motivation to workout for more than one day in a row.  

Focusing on cooking and exercising gives me a purpose when sheltering-in-place can feel stagnant. Since I enjoy these hobbies greatly, they also help me to relax and take my mind off of the stresses of struggling relationships, loneliness and conflict that can get overwhelming in isolation.

In an interview with San Benito County’s News, Robert Johnson, a licensed marriage and family therapist, the article elaborates, “In the background of people’s lives are anxiety, depression, family issues and more. These factors act like water boiling in a pot. Add in COVID-19 and sheltering-in-place, and for some people, the increased pressure has caused the water to spill over.” 

Dedicating time to hobbies is important, especially in the midst of a stressful and tragic global pandemic. As people are forced to socially isolate, many people find themselves stuck at home alone or forced to face family problems with no escape. At a time like this, it is just as — if not more — important than ever for the world to prioritize mental health as an issue. 

Matthew Zawadzki, a University of California, Merced health psychologist, found that hobbies that provide stress relief have many benefits for physical and mental health, such as “improved focus, happiness and a longer life.” The health benefits of hobbies help people to handle stress better and lower levels of depression.  

It is important that people find time in their daily lives for leisure and personal passions. It can be easy for people to waste hours each day on the internet or on a multitude of social media platforms. While it is extremely important that people are able to communicate with friends and feel connected to society while social distancing, spending too much time on these platforms can increase depression, anxiety and can even cause people to feel more isolated when they see posts of others socializing.  

In normal times, I am not bothered by the number of hours I spend on social media because my days are busy and full of social interaction, school and normal activities. However, now that I have been forced to slow down and have much more freedom, my creativity has taken over and pushed me to pursue my interest in cooking and fitness. 

I have witnessed this happen to all my friends, as they learn new painting techniques, start online dance classes or even launch their own clothing companies. It is truly beautiful to see people’s creativity blossom during such a dark, unknown and unprecedented time. 

If there is any positive message to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated thousands financially. It is important to utilize our newfound time for the things that make us happy and that we care about — something that was strongly shadowed by the importance of productivity and success before normalcy shifted. 

If people can prioritize dedicating time to hobbies and interests in normal, everyday life, they can find themselves happier in the long run. My new hobbies have helped me to destress in this hectic time while providing me with confidence that I can do anything I set my mind to. I advise others to find time in both quarantine and their busy normal schedules to set time aside for personal interests and pursuits. 

Lizzy Peppercorn can be reached at epepperc@umich.edu.

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