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Mary Lahr Schier

Get in the Flow

Hobbies are more- than just another way to pass time. The right ones can also boost your overall health.

Think about the last time you got so engaged in something that you lost track of time and forgot your worries. You might've been experiencing what the late professor and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi termed “flow.” As he explained, flow is a mental state where you get so engaged in an activity that you focus deeply and feel in control, relaxed, and purposeful.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Even better: Finding that magical flow state might be as simple as taking up a new hobby.

Which hobbies should you choose?

Here are six that can enrich your mental and physical health — and maybe even help you find flow.


Photography can be fun — taking pictures of people and places keeps you in the moment and engaged. You're also creating memories to share and cherish. And there's a lot of free online courses to help you learn and improve.

Explore photography

Tai chi

Tai chi is a mind and full-body exercise rooted in several Asian traditions. It's become popular for many because it's a gentle form of fitness with practical health benefits. Tai chi uses slow movements and physical postures to promote better balance, flexibility, and improved brain function. And you can do it anywhere, at any time, with anyone.

Learn more about Tai chi

Needle arts

Knitting, crocheting, or quilting are relaxing pastimes that maintain physical and mental dexterity and reduce stress. Knitting has even been shown to lower blood pressure. And they don't have to be solitary pursuits — local quilting and knitting shops often host classes and retreats. On YouTube you can search for “free knitting/crocheting/quilting course”

Explore needle arts on YouTube.com


Bending, digging and planting, and the satisfaction that comes from growing food and flowers all make gardening a healthy pursuit. If you don't have a yard, you can grow plants on a deck or near a sunny window. Seeds, a trowel, water, and a place to plant are all you need to get started.

Additional information about gardening


Nearly 5 million people now play pickleball, a mix of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. The sport, which is played by at least two people, works your hand-eye coordination and improves muscle strength. A pickleball court is also about one-third the size of a tennis court, which makes it ideal for people with limited mobility. While you can find dedicated pickleball courts, lots of people use tennis courts that've been marked off for the sport's smaller playing area.

Get more information on Pickleball


Also known as “birding,” this is another one that's easy to take up. All you need is access to a park or nature preserve, and maybe a set of binoculars and a book about birds. Some birders focus on learning individual bird's songs, which can help sharpen your ears and mind. Cornell University hosts a highly regarded birding site where you can see images and hear hundreds of bird songs.

Learn about Birding

– Mary Lahr Schier is an Eagan-Minn.-based freelance writer.