Why Teens Should Have Hobbies: An Occupational Therapist's Perspective.

Updated: Apr 1

An Occupational Therapist (OT) helps one do the things they need to do, things they want to do, and things they are expected to do. "Occupations" also refer to daily activities. Areas of daily activities include (1) self-care, (2) productivity (home, school, work, and community), (3) leisure pursuits/exploration, (4) sleep/rest, and (5) health management. Hobbies fall under leisure pursuits/exploration or interests. Daily activities require many skills. Such skills include self-regulation, social, cognitive, physical, and executive function skills.

This article highlights the importance of teens having and taking part in hobbies. Pursuing hobbies can help teens develop, regain, and strengthen skills, carryover skills learned from previous therapy, and promote relaxation and rejuvenation for mental wellness.

By definition, a hobby is a pastime that we do for fun in our free time. We hear the word 'hobby' used frequently, and it's paramount that we understand the significance of hobbies, especially for teens. Here are some reasons why hobbies are important and have many benefits for teens. Even though specific hobbies and executive function/cognitive skills are in each paragraph, overlap occurs across the benefits explained below.

Wholesome hobbies are also an excellent way to channel energy and time and deter behaviors that might lead to dire consequences, such as experimenting with alcohol, drugs, sex, and engaging in crime.

Below are some benefits of hobbies:

Encourage creativity and improve executive function skills

Finding and engaging in a hobby helps spark teens' creativity. A recreational activity will get teens to come up with original ideas and to use their imagination for further creativity.

Creativity promotes cognitive processes and makes it possible to use flexibility, task initiation, planning, organization, and attention.

Allow and encourage your teen to choose a hobby that interests them. When teens choose a pursuit of interest, they tend to initiate it independently and consistently. Creative hobbies include sewing, drawing, woodworking, web design, calligraphy, etc.

Connect one with others and work on social skills

Some hobbies require interacting with other people and working together to make a product, working as a team, working out together, sharing ideas, and helping others, simply to name a

few. Social interaction promotes belonging and connectedness. Teens engaging in such tasks develop attention, mental flexibility, time management, self-control, social, coping, and self-regulation skills. Examples of such hobbies include:

  • Taking a cooking class.

  • Playing sports.

  • Taking a yoga class.

  • Participating in a book club.

  • Volunteering

Learn new skills to improve self-efficacy and cognitive function

Most of the time, you do something new; you learn something. When teens engage in a productive novel or new task, they gain new abilities. New skills improve brain connections,

which impacts how teens process information. New skills open up opportunities and increase confidence. When engaging clients or patients in therapy, occupational therapists strive to support generalized self-efficacy or the belief that one can perform an activity/task or handle a situation efficiently and successfully. When learning new skills, teens apply the three primary executive function skills: mental flexibility, working memory, inhibitory control, and attention and self-regulatory skills. Such hobbies include learning a new language, playing an instrument, making films, making candles, designing, writing, blogging, and photography.

strengthen physical skills

Instead of being sedentary and staying indoors, some hobbies will move teens and break a sweat. Teens will improve physical skills such as flexibility, coordination, motor planning, balance, and body awareness. Additionally, physical activity or movement can help combat

anxiety and depression. When teens learn to live an active lifestyle earlier on, it increases their chances of being active throughout their lives, which results in a decreased probability of lifestyle diseases. Some hobbies that promote physical activity include jogging, dancing, gardening, hiking, golf, horseback riding, kayaking, roller skating, and similar.

Identify strengths for daily activities

One of the ways that can help identify strengths is when teens engage in many different activities or hobbies. Hobbies can shed light on areas that your teen excels. When your teen

knows their strengths, they can better pick careers or vocations that line up with them. For those teens who cannot make those decisions, caregivers can provide feedback for placement in various programs or sheltered workshops. Strengths also help achieve specific goals. Knowing one's strengths increases self-awareness, self-monitoring, and overall participation and success with activities. Let's name a few hobbies that can identify strengths: writing, pottery, making jewelry, archery, inventing, baking, and collecting items of interest. Promoting Strengths in Children and Youth

Relieve stress and promote mental wellness

I'm sure we all want to de-stress after a long hard day or week. It is lovely to find a hobby that will help us decompress from all the pressures and demands of life. Being able to relax helps

teens reset both physically and mentally. Just like physical activity, relaxation positively impacts physiological functions. Benefits include decreased heart rate, improved digestion, lowered blood

pressure, and improved sleep. Mentally, relaxation helps calm the mind, improve mood, and promote self-awareness, attention, and overall emotional balance. Stress-relieving hobbies can always be discovered and added to the list, but here are a few: listening to music, coloring, flying a kite, assembling puzzles, painting, reading, birdwatching, nature walks, and fishing.

An occupational therapist can encourage engagement in hobbies and facilitate participation in them. Occupational therapists can use interests to address therapy goals and work on executive function, social, physical, and self-regulation skills. Teens also need a way to cope with life demands, and engaging in hobbies can help relieve stress and promote mental wellness. Overall, OTs can use occupation-based activities, even hobbies, to develop, help regain, and strengthen skills to promote health and wellness.