Do you play the piano? Click photos? Do yoga? Taking up a hobby takes your mind off work, breaks the monotony of life and boosts your health and happiness, experts say. "A hobby, if pursued sincerely, can reduce stress and lower the risk of stress-induced diabetes. It can also improve the quality of life," says Dr V. Mohan, co-founder of Dr Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre in Delhi.
Top leaders of India Inc. concur. Venu Srinivasan, Chairman and MD of TVS Motor Company, believes meditating for at least 30 minutes a day helps "de-junk the mind". According to G.V. Prasad, co-chairman and CEO of Dr Reddy's, "Senior executives think about work 24x7, which creates a lot of unnecessary stress. A diversion (in the form of a hobby) takes you away from such issues." Quite the shutterbug, he spends time in locations such as Africa or the Arctic region at least once a year for wildlife photography. It not only "re-balances his mind and re-charges him" but also ensures "greater focus and mental agility". Agrees S. Sivakumar, Group Head, Agri and IT businesses, ITC, who has a similar interest. Plus, he tweets about science on Sundays and the social commitment brings in a component of discipline.
Ajay Piramal, Chairman of Piramal and Shriram Groups, is fond of photography but cannot spare much time. Currently, he is trying to capture the nuances of Indian philosophy. "I devote at least half an hour a day, if not more, and I either read or attend sessions on Indian philosophy." Given that the setting of the Bhagavad Gita was a battlefield, he says, "It is a practical text on real-life lessons. You go through ups and downs in business, and it teaches you to be equanimous." In contrast, G.V.K. Reddy, 80, Founder and Chairman of GVK Group, loves to play tennis.
While hobbies help improve mental health, many feel that these play a crucial role in changing the perspective as one returns to a problem after a break.
Srinivasan of TVS has a diet tip that will compound these benefits. He mostly sticks to a simple diet and also likes the British practice of 5:2 diet where people eat what they like five days a week but eat next to nothing on the remaining two days.
Science Reveals How Hobbies Help
Research has revealed how hobbies can help improve the quality of life and health. Meditation, for instance, is associated with what neuroscience refers to as reduced activity in the default mode network (DMN) of the brain. DMN is a brain network involving a number of brain regions and any change in their activities through meditation could help you calm down and focus better, preventing your mind from wandering or thinking too much about yourself.
Several studies on cyberspace highlight the benefits of playing the piano that result in better brain efficiencies. It has been found that pianists have a more balanced central sulcus (a groove or a furrow on the surface of the brain) instead of a deeper one on one side, as is the case with most people.
Eventually, all these have positive health effects, including the ability to lessen the risks of dementia or Alzheimer's. You do not need a doctor to tell you that an active hobby like photography keeps you fit, makes you focussed and enhances empathy, leaving you happy and satisfied as well as those around you.