Hobbies and Happiness: There’s a Connection

Hobbies and Happiness

Before my marriage ended, I mostly survived the love-less relationship by living in a bubble and engaging in my serious leisure activity, which, for me, was lifting heavy weights.

Serious leisure is an activity you engage in for pleasure and personal fulfillment that also requires a significant amount of time, effort, and commitment to developing and mastering.

In our society, we often call these hobbies, so when you read “serious leisure” in the article, assume I mean hobby.

Serious leisure activities are often pursued outside of work or other obligations and are typically activities you are so passionate about that you find intrinsically rewarding.

For whatever reason, I made mine lifting heavy weights. And I focused a great deal on it, so much so that I competed in powerlifting and even set a record at one of the competitions. I was happy, very happy, whenever I got to lift.

My then-husband hated it. He hated that by me lifting weights three times a week, I was leaving him with the kids on his own, and he very much felt that my only role was to grow my business, serve as the household manager and raise kids. Anything outside of that was not acceptable.

Still, I persevered and went to the gym, the rebel I was. (Very much said in sarcasm)

Powerlifting soon became part of my spiritual practice, and I wrote an article here. A couple of years after writing it, a publisher approached me asking if I wanted to write a book on this topic. At the time, I didn’t.

While I know that lifting was spiritual for me, I recently wondered if there’s a connection between happiness and serious leisure.

There are many, many connections and numerous studies on it. In this article, though, I’ll focus on three.

Studies on How Our Hobbies Can Make Us Happier

There are many studies on this topic, and there are connections between happiness and hobbies (serious leisure), but for this article, I pulled three studies to focus on.

  1. “The benefits of creative hobbies for adults: A qualitative study,” by Amy J. Guptill and Lisa M. Jones, published in the Journal of Leisure Research in 2017:  They looked at how creative hobbies, like painting or writing, impact the well-being and happiness of adults. The researchers talked to 20 adults who engaged in creative hobbies and asked them about their experiences with the pursuits. They wanted to learn how these hobbies make people feel happier and less stressed and how they help people grow as individuals.

  2. “Leisure and subjective well-being: A model of psychological mechanisms as mediating factors,” by Sebastian Kettner and Mark Conner, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies in 2016: This study wanted to find out why leisure activities, like playing sports or reading, make people happier. They looked at how our thoughts and feelings about these activities affect our happiness. Researchers asked 302 adults about their leisure activities, thoughts, feelings, and happiness levels.

  3. “Serious leisure qualities and subjective well-being,” by KangJae Jerry Lee & Sunhwan Hwang, Published online: 06 Sep 2017: This study examined how serious leisure activities, like playing music or rock climbing, affect people’s happiness. Researchers asked 511 adults who engage in serious leisure activities about their engagement and happiness. They then calculated how serious leisure activities were related to happiness and what factors were important in that relationship.

So, what were their findings? How did having serious leisure affect people’s happiness?

Does having a hobby increase your happiness?

Yes, plenty of research shows how hobbies and happiness are connected. Activities you are passionate about and challenge you can reduce stress, increase your level of competence, and connect you to others who support you, all of which increase your happiness.

  • Personal Growth: Engaging in creative hobbies helped participants learn new things about themselves, their abilities, and their interests. They found creating to be a way to explore and express their identities.

  • Stress Relief: participants reported that creating helped them feel calmer, more focused, and less anxious.

  • Increased happiness: participants described experiencing a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and joy when they engaged in their pursuits.

  • Greater life satisfaction: people who feel like they have a choice in their leisure activities tend to feel more satisfied with their lives. They experience a sense of autonomy and control over their leisure time.

  • Increased confidence in their competence level: engaging in leisure activities that one feels competent in can lead to higher subjective well-being.

  • Relatedness to others: leisure activities involving social connections and interactions can increase happiness.

  • Sense of accomplishment: engaging in serious leisure activities can increase self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.

  • Positive social connections: People who engage in serious leisure activities often do so with others. The social connections formed through these activities can be a significant source of support and camaraderie.

  • Fulfillment of needs: serious leisure activities can help fulfill psychological needs, such as autonomy and relatedness, contributing to increased sustainable well-being.

So, how do we apply this to our lives? Let’s talk about it.

12 Ways to Use Hobbies to Increase Your Happiness

  1. Try new hobbies: Engaging in creative pursuits can help you learn new things about yourself and your abilities.

  2. Choose hobbies you enjoy: Doing something you want can increase happiness and well-being.

  3. Make time for leisure activities: Prioritize them in your schedule, and add them in like you do your other life activities.

  4. Choose leisure activities that challenge you: Challenging leisure activities can contribute to personal growth and increased feelings of competence.

  5. Participate in leisure activities with others: Social connections and interactions through leisure activities can increase feelings of happiness.

  6. Find leisure activities that allow for autonomy: Feeling like you have a choice in your leisure activities can lead to greater satisfaction and well-being.

  7. Set goals for your leisure activities: Setting goals can contribute to personal growth and increased feelings of competence.

  8. Do a leisure activity that allows for personal expression: Engaging in creative hobbies can provide an outlet for self-expression and exploration.

  9. Use leisure activities to cope with stress: Leisure activities can help you relax and unwind from daily stressors.

  10. Be present in your leisure activities: Focusing on and enjoying the present moment during leisure activities can contribute to increased happiness.

To increase happiness, you can prioritize leisure activities, try new hobbies, choose activities that challenge them, and engage in activities that meet your psychological needs for independence and connection.

Making time for serious leisure activities can increase happiness and satisfaction in life.

So, yes, you are justified when you need to reduce your obligations to find time for your hobbies so that you can be happier.



The Just a Little Bit Happier Project is where I break down happiness research and resources into practical, actionable steps to gradually guide you towards your own happiness.

And once a week, I summarize it all in a newsletter.

I hope you join me in this journey, and that you’ll find it something you want to share with others. Let’s do this together.



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