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Enjoy Yourself: Choosing a Hobby in an Empty Nest

Family & Caregiving

Life after your kids have left for college or gotten a job may seem a little dull. You have more time to spend on yourself—perhaps something you'd always dreamed of—but are unsure of how to occupy your days and nights. Well, maybe it's time to get a hobby!

The first step is choosing your activity, which may not be simple if you've spent the last 18 or so years catering to someone else's needs. Now is the time to think of yourself, unabashedly and creatively.

Take some time for introspection. Are you in need of a creative outlet? Better physical fitness? Do you feel a strong need to help others? Are there any areas of interest that you've neglected over the years out of selflessness? Do you have any special talents that you would like to exercise? Is there something you would like to learn about?

When choosing a hobby, consider how much time you will be able to dedicate to it. If you're simply looking for something to occupy your hands during occasional downtime, an activity like knitting may be ideal. Conversely, if you find yourself looking for things that will take up long stretches of time, something like oil painting or horseback riding may be more appealing. There are also seasonal hobbies, like fishing or making ice sculptures, if certain times of the year are busier for you than others.

Cost is also something you may want to take into consideration. When you've decided on an activity that interests you, it's a good idea to sit down and figure out how much your hobby will cost, both immediately and in the long term. The point is to engage in an enjoyable activity, not to break the bank.

Developing a hobby can also be a great way to meet people. Interested in writing? Take a class where you'll be surrounded by people with similar interests who can also help you develop your prose. Feeing sporty? Join a team or get a membership to a recreation center to find people who will encourage you in your fitness goals. Have a knack for crafts? Find a community or Internet groups where you can share tips and meet new friends.

If you need more motivation to get out and meet people, remember that numerous studies show that involvement in social relationships benefits your health. Studies consistently show that people who are more involved in social relationships are likely to live longer, healthier and happier lives than those with low levels of social involvement. So take advantage of your newfound free time to make new friends, reconnect with old friends, start new activities or renew old interests. It may not keep you young—but it may keep you happier and healthier.

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