Importance of Having Hobbies & Passions Outside of Work

by Jen Barna MD | Life Journey, Physician Coaching, Podcast, Work Life Balance

“Mindfulness, hobbies, gratitude, proper sleep, proper rest and proper nutrition, these are not necessarily things that can be compromised.” -Coach Gabriella Dennery MD 

In this episode of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast, Coaches Gabriella Dennery MD and Jill Farmer discuss why it’s important to have hobbies and passions outside of work. We need these outside interests for so many reasons that Jill and Gabriella outline in this episode. Not only do hobbies and passions help us to access different parts of our brains but they can also connect us with different people outside of our work world and also a sense of community which we all need. These are things that can contribute to our mental and physical health and help us to thrive. Tune in to find out all the benefits of incorporating hobbies into your life!

Podcasts mentioned: 

Episode 38: Procrastination: The Self Defense Mechanism We Can Do Without

Episode 35: Perfectionism: Why 100% at Everything Doesn’t Add Up

Episode 27: Interview with Dr. Ysaye Barnwell: Singer and Composer From Sweet Honey in the Rock, Author, Actress, Educator

Excerpts from the show:

“Why do you think it’s so important for physicians to find time to do things that light them up outside of their workplace?” -Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer

“You need that creative juice. You need that creativity somewhere along the line and it’s not just work related. I think if we could take work off the table for a minute, life is not just about that. There are other things going on. You need to recharge and I think one of our podcast guests said it wonderfully. Ysaye Barnwell talked about creativity and she said that sometimes you need to shut off one valve and open another one up and allow something else to come in. Just take a mental and physical break to recharge, to get the juices flowing, to have a different kind of community, a conversation. I took up African drumming when I was an attending physician within the first six months of starting my first job as an attending. I was in New York City and it was something I wanted to do, something I was curious about. I saw it on stage one day and there was a particular drum that I wanted to study. I said, ‘Well, I’m in New York City. This is the right place to be! Let’s go for it.’ So I found a teacher. Within six months, I started a new job in July and by January, I was in drum classes. And to be around a different community of different people who didn’t talk about patients and didn’t talk about diagnoses and consultants. They were from different walks of life and they talked about anything and everything. And to be in a space where I was learning something completely different. So encouraging somebody by saying, ‘You know what? I know you think there’s no time, and I think through the coaching work what’s important is you realize that there is more time than we think there is.’ But even if you believe there is no time and there are other things that are more pressing or more important and a hobby is something you can just push aside… the hobbies are what you dig into even more when you’re stressed. Why? Because it gives you that breathing room and that breathing space.” -Coach Gabriella Dennery MD 

“Yeah, I love what you just said, I think it’s really important. We talked about it in other conversations and other podcasts which I highly recommend folks tune into about procrastination and perfectionism. A lot of times people actually procrastinate doing their hobbies because they are so attached to the outcome. ‘Well I can’t paint because I can’t make a pretty picture out of it.’ This is an important time for us to really play with progress over perfect. It’s the process not the outcome. The process is doing as you said, shutting off one valve and turning on another. The term that I use a lot of times with my clients is that we have to change the channel. As a kid growing up in the 70s before we got cable, I’m watching the Brady Bunch and all I’ve got is a bunch of white fuzz on the screen for some reason, you know whatever day there’s not a good signal coming in. We had this trick where we would turn the channel and we’d watch a little Gilligan’s island for a while and then sure enough we’d come back and the channel was clear again. Our brains are a little like that too. We need to be shifting some of those neural pathways. We need to be reusing that glycogen in different ways and changing the channel is important. So one of the things that comes up in my physician clients who I’m encouraging to look for some ways to change the channel and to explore some hobbies and some interests and some passion, something that they’re interested in outside of work. And they’ll say, ‘Well I don’t have any of those because I’m not good at it.’ So they’re not a painter and they have no haute couture skills. They’re not a drummer like you. I’m that way. I don’t have any hobbies that are actually other high-end skills for me but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have ways to explore that. What do you say to people like that, Gabriella, who say, ‘Well I’m not good at anything else so how can I have a hobby?’” -Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer

“Understand that it’s not just about the activity itself, it’s a benefit you get from it. So what are you going for? Are you going for perfectionism? Are you going for getting it right? So you don’t do it because you’re not going to be a world-class painter? I think my father sold three paintings in 86 years of life. It’s not about that, it’s about the pleasure of it. So where is your joy? Where is the pleasure? Where is that leisure time? And if you don’t have a hobby, and I’m saying this to everybody, find one. Go for what you’re curious about. And you can always drop it if it’s something that you tried but it’s not interesting. So I’m curious about knitting, let me see how that works. Ok, that bores me. Let me find something else. Get curious. Go with where your curiosity leads. It doesn’t have to be the next big thing. It doesn’t have to be how you earn your living. It doesn’t have to be your next business idea. It just has to be something that breaks the routine and helps you think and access your brain in different arenas. Where different pockets of your brain are activated you know. Get that creative right side brain going as opposed to always being about logical decisions. Stop being logical for a moment and be illogical. Have fun, go with your curiosity. Find stuff out. Ask people, ask your friends what they do. One thing I ask my clients is what hobbies did you have when you were growing up? What was fascinating to you then? What about your teen years or younger adult years before you went into that medical track? What were your personal side gigs that had nothing to do with money or performance but had everything to do with where you found your joy? That seven or eight-year-old kid knew what they were fascinated about, so if we have to go all the way back there then that’s what I do until we find that thing. It may be something new, but just to tap into that curiosity again, that kid-like curiosity.” -Coach Gabriella Dennery MD

“I love that so much. The hot track right here that we follow is what are you interested in and exploring it and also being willing to be more kid-like, like you said. As kids we would change our mind about stuff. Remember you’d be into something and then a couple years later you see that Aunt that you hadn’t seen in a couple years and she’d ask if you were still into geodes and you’re like, ‘No I’m not into geodes anymore.’ But that’s ok. As a kid you thought it was ok and there was no crime in moving onto the next thing. And so I think to give ourselves permission as adults to play in that space is important. Another thing I realized around this subject over Covid times was I had kind of let my phone and my iPad become a bit of a hobby in a way that wasn’t particularly satisfying to me. It was just a default mechanism more than a real place that was drawing me in out of curiosity. You know it’s fine to play solitaire on your iPad, I thoroughly enjoy it and I’m not saying it’s evil. It could be a really nice thing to do. It’s just I let myself realize that was my default and there might be other things I wanted to do. So I’ve just come back to good old-fashioned reading mystery novels that I hadn’t read for a long time. The other thing that I think is important that I know is something we’re both passionate about, is looking for ways to be connected to other people. A sense of community is important to us. We know it’s actually an antidote to burnout as well. So I love encouraging my physician clients to notice whatever they’re interested in and are there places they can go be interested in that thing with other people? Whether it’s sailing or needlepointing or biking or tae kwon do as you mentioned. Whatever it is. It’s letting ourselves play. When we are hard workers and high achievers, which physicians are, we somehow think that play is for other people or for people that have more time on their hands, and we don’t recognize that as creatures we were literally built to balance what we’re doing in terms of effort with some play. It’s part of our biology and we forget that.” -Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer

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