Reconnecting With Your Passions: Getting over the Meh’s By ELEANOR HALEY

Posted on July 01, 2019

Have you ever fallen in love with a thing? Not a person or a place, but a thing? Well maybe not a thing but an activity; otherwise known as a hobby, outlet, creative endeavor, or passion? I hope everyone knows the joy of falling in love with a thing at least once in life.

Passions and hobbies provide people with an outlet for escape, personal expression and exploration, distraction, meditation, and catharsis. It can change the way one views themselves, their loved ones, and the world around them. It can boost emotional wellbeing and, depending on the hobby, physical health.

Dr. Kevin Eschleman, a psychology professor at San Francisco State, and his colleagues found results to support this idea when they measured the impact of creative hobbies on employees in the workplace. Eschleman noted participants, “…usually described [hobbies] as lush, as a deep experience that provides a lot of things for them.” He also remarks that they, “…talk about this idea of self-expression and an opportunity to really discover something about themselves…” The ultimate outcome of the study found that in two groups – one rated by co-workers and one self-rated – employees with a creative hobby were more likely to be helpful, collaborative, and creative on the job. The study also noted that people with hobbies felt more relaxed and in control outside of work.

Those who have experienced the death of a loved one know what it’s like to lose someone they love. It’s a disorienting and devastating experience. We’ve talked about how grief makes you feel like your going crazy, how it brings an onslaught of secondary losses, and how it sometimes requires an enormous amount of adjustment. It’s a time when you need to tap into all of your outlets to make sense of your loss, construct a new normal, and redefine your sense of self. But unfortunately, for many, when they look to their go-to outlets they find they’ve lost their groove.

Anhedonia, otherwise described as ‘Meh’ or ‘I’m just not that into it’, is the loss of interest in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities. Loss of interest can extend to everything from passions, friends, family, hobbies, work, school, food, sex, and so on. Anhedonia is one of the main symptoms of major depressive disorder which experts believe has to do with depression’s impact on the pleasure circuits of the brain. Grief and depression are not one in the same although, just like anyone else, grievers can experience depression or may have already been depressed at the time of a loved one’s death. Regardless, in the face of death and profound loss, it can be difficult for anyone to want to engage in the activities they once found pleasurable.

What to do, what to do? You miss your hobbies and you know the positive effects of engaging your passions have a broad impact on your physical and metal health, but you just aren’t feeling it. You can wait around for the spark to return, but you might get better results if you make a conscious decision to re-immerse yourself in that which you once loved, whatever it may be. Here are 12 tips for reconnecting with your passions:

1. Think: Does this feel like disinterest or avoidance? There’s a difference between lack of interest in an activity and all out avoidance. If you’re not sure which one you’re experiencing ask yourself this: when thinking about the activity do I experience a lack of feeling or do I experience strong negative feelings? If the activity brings up negative feelings, then you might assume that it’s become linked with something traumatic, sad, disappointing or undesirable.

Perhaps the activity is connected with sad memories because it’s something you used to share with your deceased loved one. Maybe you’re worried the activity will bring out too many of your own difficult emotions. Or maybe you’re concerned you’ll fail, do poorly, or the results will be judged by others. Take some time to think about what your roadblock might be and brainstorm ways to get around it.

2. Do it daily: Ann Lamott in her preeminent book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, advises wannabe writers:

“You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. So you sit down at, say, nine every morning, or ten every night. You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on the computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so.”

This is good advice for any creative endeavor whether it’s journaling, photography, painting, drawing, etc; make a habit of doing it whenever possible.

A popular daily project among photographers is the 365 project, where a person takes a photo every day for a year. There are dedicated Flickr groups and an Instagram hashtag (#365). The 365 project isn’t just for photographers, check out Brian Lewis Saunders who drew a self portrait every day for a year.

Pro-Tip: If you’re not up for a 365 project, consider a 30 day challenge instead.

3. Schedule time: Sometimes you’re so busy life just gets in the way of hobbies and creative outlets. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes decide to watch just one more episode of Sister Wives instead of reading, writing, exercising, etc.

Be intentional about engaging in activities you know are good for your mental and emotional health. Set a tee time, sign up for a session with a personal trainer, hire a babysitter so you can have 2 hours alone, or make an appointment with yourself to do whatever it is you love (used to love or want to love) doing. Set aside time and stick to it.

4. Join a club or find a buddy: Engaging in the activity with people who also enjoy the activity has multiple benefits. First, it forces you to show up unless you go through the trouble of canceling on your buddy or no showing on a group of people. Second, those who share similar interests can provide you with the motivation, inspiration, encouragement, support, or even competition you need to get back into the swing of things.

5. Take a class: Take a class with the intent of learning new skills, outlooks and/or re-immersing yourself in the fundamentals of the craft or activity. Once you’ve enrolled in a class you are more likely to stick with it and, like joining a club, taking a class is a good way to find companionship and make friends with similar interests.

Look for classes and workshops online, at your local community/recreation center, local colleges, gyms, and businesses. When looking for classes and workshops consider cost, whether you’d prefer an in person vs. online atmosphere, and your availability.

6. Volunteer/Teach: Have you reached a point where you want to share your skills or need to put them to good use? Consider volunteering your skills with local charities, churches, schools, clubs, non-profits, and community centers.

Consider this carefully; although it may be exactly the opportunity your looking for, many people find an activity becomes less fun when it’s something they have to do.

7. Choose a special project: For grievers, I recommend a project that incorporates your loved one’s memory. I have blogged about a few photo projects I set out to complete with my mother in mind and have discussed the projects of other artists here. Projects are great because they have a focus, an end point, a finished product, and you never know where they’ll take you.

8. Enter a contest or juried show – or – submit an essay or poem to a publication: Some people like the motivation of competition. For me personally, I just like that contests and prompts give you direction. Whether it’s a photo contest on the best baby photo, a local 5K, or a call for essays on your worst mistake; a focus and/or goal is outlined and your are free to execute as you like from there.

9. Try new outlets: Sometimes you just need to try something new. You love photography but you’re in a place where you find more comfort in words. You like quilting, but you want to try your hand at scrapbooking. You love playing basketball, but you think yoga might provide your body with the break it needs. The great thing is, each new outlet can provide you with a deeper appreciation or understanding for those you are further along in mastering. Each endeavor helps you to see and experience the world in new ways while skills and benefits gained from one will often transfer to another.

10. Get back to basics: Try and remember what it is that you loved about your passion in the first place. Look back on yourself when you first fell in love – journal about it, look at photos, look at early work and reconnect with who you were at the time. Create and engage like a newbie. Play, break the rules, and make mistakes.

11. Take care of yourself: Sleep, exercise, eat well – you know the drill. Poor self-care saps your energy and your creativity. Make one positive choice for yourself and then another and another.

12. Become obsessed: Love something – anything – except those things that eat away at you and make you feel worse. Make the ‘thing’ yours, live it, breathe it, break the rules, find the beauty in it and go to sleep thinking about it.



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