On the work-life balance scale, one side usually weighs heavier than the other — and it’s not the side that keeps your mental health in check. While more than 134 countries institute laws capping the length of the work week, the United States has no such maximum. As a result, Americans are notoriously overworked.
One third of Americans work 45 hours a week and 9.7 million work over 60. There are sinister consequences when you don’t have a balance between work and fun in your life. The first is that you become less happy. The second is that you are less productive. All of this (and more) is why it’s imperative that Americans learn how to chill out.
The benefits of having a hobby are especially pertinent for entrepreneurs who have a lot to gain from taking a breather every now and again. Not to mention, it’s very common for entrepreneurs to turn their hobbies into businesses — pick up those knitting needles, it could be your next venture!
Though reading is an obvious recommendation, the fact that only 19 percent of Americans report reading for pleasure is enough to justify another outlining of this hobby’s various benefits.
Reading isn’t just a good way to relax and extract oneself from the hectic daily hubbub, it’s a wonderful way for entrepreneurs to learn and access the thoughts of successful business owners. From Peter Thiel to Timothy Ferris, almost every big-name investor or founder has written words of wisdom that can help entrepreneurs take the next step in starting or scaling their businesses.
If work is particularly stressful, the best thing you can do is start regularly practicing Yoga. It’s an effective workout, (particularly hot Yoga) but more than that, it requires skills which can extend outside of the Yoga studio.
Pain management, flexibility, muscle strength, breathing, and good posture are all vital in the practice of Yoga — and they certainly wouldn’t hurt as you navigate the ebbs and flows of the entrepreneurship world.
Additionally, if you have trouble with sleep, Yoga has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve the quality of sleep over time.
3. Playing Music
Neuroscientists have identified a link between musical training and executive function. It’s long been a rumor that playing musical instruments makes you smarter, and it’s not untrue. Musical training can “cause fundamental changes in both the structure and function of a young person’s brain.”
But this hobby isn’t only beneficial for young people — it’s great for adults too. Playing music helps improve cognitive function, boost memory, relieve stress, and increase coordination. Playing musical instruments also aids with time management, which is another key skill needed by entrepreneurs.
4. Language Learning
Go one step further than simply downloading Duolingo on your phone, commit yourself to the challenge of learning a second (or third) language. There is a long list of reasons why this is a good idea: enhancing listening skills and memory, expanding people's worldviews, increasing creativity, teaching people how to engage with other cultures, imbuing extremely useful analytical skills, to name a few.
Aside from the mental gains, there are numerous obvious practical benefits — especially for entrepreneurs. Speaking a second language can give people a competitive edge in career choices. And for entrepreneurs, it can facilitate international expansion due to improved communication skills and understanding of other cultures.
Running is an incredibly useful hobby for anyone and everyone to pick up. It helps improve your stamina, boosts your core strength, and generally keeps your body healthy.
The greatest benefits of running, however, are not the physical changes that happen. Running is extremely mental. You have to keep pushing yourself even when your body wants you to stop, inspiring persistence which has unparalleled value in business (where you will be continually rejected/knocked down).
The endorphins that follow a run also provide underlying motivation to carry you through the day, or at least through the next meeting.
6. Video Games
Of all the hobbies on this list, video games is by far the most outlandish recommendation we’ve included. While most adults are physically tearing their children away from the Xbox, we have a different suggestion: game.
A key part of playing video games is problem solving — a skill which will sound familiar to any entrepreneur as the job is essentially comprised of encountering and overcoming new, tricky situations.
In addition to the benefits drawn from the various mental exercises in video games, this hobby can help creativity blossom.
Cooking teaches you two opposing skills. The first is following instructions. The second is not following them.
While at the start, cooking is simply a case of reading a recipe and taking it step by step, bringing the carefully curated pieces together to create a predetermined whole. As you advance in the skill, the kitchen can become a laboratory; a site for experimentation and rule-breaking.
From your foundation of recipe-following, you develop your own judgement and start taking risks. The entire evolution isn’t dissimilar from that of those starting out in the business world: starting by looking at what’s out there, understanding the mold, and then creating a better version of it.
It’s a chain reaction. Eating healthy improves your well-being, and improving your well-being allows you to be more successful.
On a practical level, gardening is a way for you to grow your own food — predominantly fruits and vegetables that lack pesticides or genetic tampering.
For entrepreneurs, gardening can also be a simulated, confined version of project management. You set your goal, work on it daily (growing, fertilizing, pruning), and see the results slowly, but surely emerge. At the end, you get the same satisfaction that one would completing a task at work.
Journaling can be a very therapeutic exercise; a way to sift through and order your thoughts. For those starting a business, it’s good to have a place to channel creativity.
Carrying a notebook around with you and setting aside a portion of the day to write can be an informal brainstorming session — and who knows? Maybe it could turn into your next million dollar idea.
But don’t just use this time for furthering your business ventures. Taking time to write in a journal and think each day can do wonders for your mental and emotional health.
Knitting doesn’t exactly offer the brain benefits that many of the other hobbies on this list do, but it does have a nearly unparalleled relaxation effect.
When you’re an entrepreneur and your daily life is defined by a chaotic blur of problem solving and fire stopping, you’ll do almost anything to get your pulse back to normal. Knitting is a great, low-key way to de-stress after work.
In fact, “Research has shown that knitting could reduce depression and anxiety, slow the onset of dementia, distract from chronic pain, and increase overall sense of well-being.”
This is something you can also do while watching TV or listening to music, so you can combine activities and maximize your free time out of work.