From The Straits Times    |

We spend most of our waking hours at work, making our free time valuable. It may seem counterintuitive to spend those precious hours dabbling in hobbies, but doing so could enhance your life. No matter how much you love your job, it is a little sad (read: pathetic) if you can only talk about work in social situations. Hobbies make you a more interesting person and strengthen your sense of self. That said, not all hobbies are made equal. Some have a more uplifting and positive effect than others. Here are five worth picking up.



It’s a win-win: The more we give to others, the happier and healthier we become. Many studies can attest to that. Researchers at Syracuse University in the US found that givers were 42 per cent more likely than non-givers to say they were “very happy” while a study published in the journal Psychology and Aging found that those who volunteered regularly were less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who didn’t. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, so keeping it within normal levels is vital.

Get started: Check out for ad-hoc and regular volunteering opportunities spanning a variety of causes from animal welfare to the environment. Search based on your skills and proximity to your home. You can also make donations and set up fundraising campaigns on this online platform created by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre.



Yoga does more than burn calories and tone your muscles. It’s also a total mind-body workout with many health benefits. Research has shown that practising yoga regularly lowers your risk of heart disease and hypertension. Plus, it may reduce symptoms of depression, headaches and diabetes. While “traditional” forms of exercises like cycling or running get your heart pumping and stimulate your nervous system, yoga does the exact opposite. It calms the nervous system so your heart rate and blood pressure go down. As a result, you’ll reduce stress, improve your mood and sleep more soundly.

Get started: Attend different types of yoga classes till you find one that you like. For full stress-relieving benefits, go for yin yoga where poses are held for at least three minutes at a time. This slower paced practice promotes deep relaxation. Look out for free trial sessions, or sign up for a subscription service like ClassPass which gives you access to many studios. Newbies get their first month free, which includes 45 credits to book four to seven classes.



Eating out is really convenient, but eating in is better for you. Research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that people who prepare food at home eat healthier. They consume fewer calories, less saturated fat and sodium, and more fibre and nutrients per meal according to Juliana Cohen, a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. It’s easy to why this happens – you become more mindful of what you’re feeding yourself.

Get started: Signing up for a food subscription service is a good place to start if you don’t have time to go grocery shopping. Your Mama delivers ingredients to your doorstep along with easy-to-make recipes. And if organic produce is your thing, check out Simply Fresh, a subscription service that specialises in organic fruits and vegetables from farms in Europe.


Flower arranging

A creative hobby, like arranging flowers, could make you better at your job. San Francisco State University professor Dr Kevin Eschleman led a study to find out the effect of creative hobbies on people and the study uncovered that employees who engaged in creatives hobbies outside of work performed 15 to 30 per cent better when they were working. Just being around flowers is good for you too. Research shows they boost your mood and calm your mind. Plus, your creations will make great gifts too!

Get started: Learn the fundamentals of flower arrangement by signing up for a hands-on styling workshop. Florists that offer such workshops include Ask A French, The Bloom Room and Yi Lian Ng Floral Atelier. Flowers and tools are usually provided at these workshops and you’ll be able to take home your creations.


Learn a foreign language

Love K-dramas and wish you spoke Korean? Make it a reality by signing up for language classes. Learning a new language is really beneficial for brain health – studies suggest that it can slow down memory loss and even delay the onset of dementia. What’s more, if you can learn a new language successfully, your brain also gets better at performing mentally demanding tasks like problem-solving.

Get started: There are many language schools around. Go for one with teachers who are native speakers and a structured programme. Visit the MySkillsFuture website first to see if it has a course that suits your needs. If so, you can use your $500 SkillsFuture credit (offered by the government to every Singaporean aged 25 and older) to offset the course fees.


Photos: 123rf