This week I took the plunge and did something that I have been thinking about for a long time. It has been years since I took part in an organized hobby activity, but, with a push from a family member, I decided that it was finally time to stop googling it and actually sign up and show up.
I often encourage my clients to invest in themselves by practicing self-care. But self-care means more than just self-compassion, relaxation and rest. To me, self-care means participating in self-actualization and growth fostering experiences. We often do not think of hobbies as growth opportunities, but they certainly can be. So yesterday I took part in my first ceramics class.
It was immediately apparent that this was going to be more than just fun artistic hobby time. The benefits of the class started from the excitement of having something to look forward to in my calendar. For me, the class was a time to detach from my phone for a full three hours, and boy was that something that was foreign to me. The class also pushed me to be fully focussed on the present moment, my attention on my creation instead of my future responsibilities, worries and to-do lists. By focussing on the wet clay, instead of getting caught up in the past and future, I was practicing mindfulness while also creating art. Taking three hours to focus on something for the entire pursuit of pleasure felt freeing. This class was not for work or professional development, it was purely for me. It felt meditative to let my hands be in control rather than my busy mind. As the third hour approached, I became more appreciative of the repetitive motions and sensory exploration of the clay between my fingers. It felt exciting and satisfying to see my creation improve and more closely approximate what I had intended as the minutes progressed.
The most interesting thing that I took from the class was the feeling of being challenged. It has been a while since I have attempted to learn a completely new skill. I had to consciously fight the urge to compare myself to others that seemed to grasp the hand motions and techniques with greater ease. I had to remind myself that perfection is not the goal and that learning means things start off hard and slowly, but with practice gets easier.
Learning a new skill is healthy for your brain, excellent mental exercise, and an opportunity to train your sense of resilience. Avoiding struggle is avoidance of growth and a failure to explore what life can truly foster in us. During childhood, we are taught that we need to try different hobbies and that we should not give up when things are difficult. As an adult, we sink into what we are good at. We choose careers in line with our strengths and focus on everyday routines that become somewhat mindless and habitual. As a result, adults may forget that mistakes and challenges foster growth. We need to remind ourselves that small challenges prepare us for the big challenges that we cannot easily anticipate. By adaptively working through challenges we can train our brains to approach future struggles with that same adaptive perspective instead of crumbling in despair.
So next week, when I look at the non-symmetrical bowl I made, I will be reminded that I can continue to work on what is not easy for me instead of letting my imperfections and difficulties defeat me.
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Jessica is a member of the clinical wellness and learning support team at FLEX Psychology. Jessica started Wellness Wednesday out of a desire to provide further opportunities for her clients to extend their wellness journey to all avenues of their life. You can learn more about Jessica by clicking here or by learning more about her and the clinical team at FLEX Psychology by clicking here.