The semester is beginning to pick up and your schedule is already packed with PILOT sessions, club meetings and office hours. Although you may enjoy the classes you’re taking and the research you’re doing, it can be difficult to make time for activities that are purely for leisure. For those who made New Year’s resolutions focused on hobbies, you may feel like you are losing your momentum — approximately 80% of people who made resolutions do not continue them into February.
While being a college student has always been time consuming, for many of us, scrolling social media has filled the hours that may have otherwise been occupied by hobbies. Watching TikTok and scanning Instagram posts may feel like a simple alternative to dedicating time to another task, but data suggests that Gen Z is not happy with how they fill their days; in one survey, 72% of Gen Z adults said they felt they spent too much time on social media.
Moreover, social media has come to play an outsized role in our lives, including shaping our interests in accordance with the trend cycle. For example, skincare TikToks have influenced tweens to try anti-aging skincare products from Drunk Elephant, and the hype over Stanley tumblers drove people to camp overnight outside Target in the rain to get a limited edition cup.
Even though sharing interests with others can be rewarding, and finding out what others are doing can be inspiring, do not let trends dictate your hobbies. Be intentional about how you want to spend your free time, rather than succumbing to the latest fad. We encourage you to to pick a hobby that is something you do for you, not for other people.
At a competitive school like Hopkins, students can often feel pressured into activities that improve their resumes and medical school applications at the expense of engaging in activities for leisure. Although you may claim that doing research, volunteering at a clinic or participating in a consulting club is a hobby, at the end of the day, you are probably doing it with the aim of advancing your career. We should find fulfillment outside of pursuits for academic or professional validation.
Some students say they will find time for hobbies when they graduate or get into graduate school, but there is no time like the present to start a hobby. While the lives of college students can be incredibly busy, the lives of working professionals, graduate students and medical residents can get even busier. If you wait to take time for your own enjoyment until you get over the next hurdle in your academic or professional careers, you may never stop waiting.
The idea of finding a hobby can seem intimidating — it can be scary to start something new, especially if you don’t do it often. For high-achieving Hopkins students, not being good at something can seem like a reason to give up. But, you don’t have to be good at a hobby for it to bring you joy.
Similarly, feeling pressure to do your hobby on a daily basis, or making it a time consuming project, can make leisure for the sake of leisure feel even more unattainable. You aren’t less of a reader because you read 20 pages a night instead of 100, or less of a knitter if knitting one sweater takes you several months instead of several days. While we might have been encouraged to have a “spike” in our college applications to demonstrate excellence in one particular area, try leaving that concept behind and cultivating more diverse interests.
This isn’t to say that if you are interested in learning how to play a lap steel or speak a new language you shouldn’t go for it, but most of us are more interested in finding something small to do often. You can bake a batch of cookies from a box, stop by the climbing wall at the gym for 30 minutes or even listen to audiobooks on your way to the med campus instead of catching up on your email. Figure out how to make your hobby work for you.
You can even consider trying out a few different hobbies at once: Start a succulent garden, make your own ice cream and do The New York Times mini crossword puzzle before bed. Having diverse hobbies allows your interest in any particular one to ebb and flow.
It is true that hobbies sometimes come with challenges. Horseback riding, golfing and even creating pottery, for example, can have a financial barrier that makes them inaccessible to many students. It can be difficult to justify spending money on something that is just for our enjoyment, when the society we live in can make it feel like school, work and chores leave no room for leisure.
However, being surrounded by so many clubs at Hopkins provides you with the unique opportunity to try new hobbies that you might otherwise never have been able to. You may not be able to put on a theater production after college, but at Hopkins, you can join Witness Theater or The JHU Barnstormers. You may not have been able to go white water rafting or sailing where you are from, but through the Johns Hopkins Outdoors Club, you can enjoy these excursions with your classmates.
If you want to spend your free time off campus, Baltimore provides many opportunities to explore your hobbies for free. Check out The News-Letter’s Leisure section (shameless plug) for ideas for free activities.
The health benefits of having an outlet for leisure cannot be overstated. A study found that 45 minutes of making art each day is associated with boosted self-confidence. In addition, researchers found that more time spent on leisure activities is associated with lower blood pressure, decreased stress levels and overall better psychological and physical health.
We at The News-Letter are also guilty of not prioritizing hobbies and getting caught up in the mayhem of the school year. However, just because it’s not January anymore doesn’t mean it’s too late to set goals for yourself. Even if you don’t succeed in sticking with a hobby, don’t be afraid to try again.
You’ve done a lot for your resume already. It’s time to do something for yourself.