Because the world we inhabit is incredibly beautiful and filled with things to enjoy and explore healthily, it might seem odd to consider that people sometimes find themselves thinking, “I’m bored.”
Unfortunately, it’s often true. Yet boredom is regularly used as a substitute for the word “fear”–because being busy can be scary. Life is overwhelming. It moves at the speed of light. It’s easier to be bored and do nothing, simply because sometimes life is really tough to handle and navigate, and sometimes that can result in difficult emotions like depression, anxiety, and shame. These cause chemical levels in the brain to lower and become imbalanced, making it hard for your body to compensate and regulate. And that is precisely when addiction can creep back in.
No one ever wants to feel less than their best. Dopamine and serotonin are two of the feel-good chemicals that your body produces naturally when experiencing pleasure. Drugs, alcohol, and other substances raise these levels, so you feel great while using them–but not so good when you aren’t. That’s why people keep using, even when they know the consequences: it falsely implies normalcy and regulation to their bodies. It then becomes an unhealthy practice to be happy, and substance abuse takes up an incredible amount of time–disguising itself as a hobby that cannot be fully quenched.
Sarah Huerta found herself in the doldrums of depression after the sudden death of her brother in 2004, and it began to take over her life. Diagnosed with severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD, her husband became concerned that her health–mentally and physically–would take a turn for the worse if nothing changed. After accepting a gift of knitting needles with reluctance, Sarah realized that by engrossing herself in an enjoyable hobby, she was no longer obsessing and worrying about the future, and recognized that her grief was diminishing too. Study after study has proven that engaging in a personally satisfying hobby or activity has the same effects as meditation on those who are depressed, stressed, or traumatized in some capacity.
Harvest a hobby with passion
Because involvement in healthy and enjoyable activities can produce the same results chemically as do drugs, alcohol, and other addictions, finding one that is right for you can be a big step toward feeling full emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as you continue on your journey of recovery. If you’re overwhelmed or simply struggling with how to choose a hobby that is right for you, that’s okay; tapping into what interests you after a long period of disinterest in outside activities is tough. Try jotting down your answers to these questions to start, and be as honest as you possibly can. Don’t pre-judge your answers or monitor what you’re writing–just go for it. You might be surprised at what you discover!
- What makes you physically smile? (activities, people, general interests)
- Who or what inspires you deeply, and why?
- How have you overcome challenges in your life?
- During what times do you feel great about yourself?
- What natural skills do you have (in any capacity)? If someone else was asked the same thing about you, what do you think he or she would say?
In conjunction with treatment, figuring out a hobby that sparks your interest can make a world of difference. Even if you’re unsure at the moment, things like hiking, art and music therapy, boating, and animal interaction might spark your interest when you least expect it.
Open space, open heart, open mind
While these are just several suggestions to get you started, there are plenty of other resources out there to help you gain some insight into hobbies and passions that could change your life. There is absolutely no shame in feeling empty after eradicating addiction from your life–it was a large part of who you once were. Moving on from those feelings, becoming self-motivated, and tapping into the ways you can fill that once-occupied time will take effort, but it will pay off if you approach the process with a positive mindset.
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