Well-Being Find a New Passion to Bring out the Best in You

by Kelly Aiglon | January 09, 2019

We all know there’s more to life than eat, sleep, work, repeat. But sometimes it takes falling into a slump to know that it's time to shake things up.

“Humans are naturally wired for growth, creativity and relationships,” says Jamie McNally, licensed professional counselor and owner of Sycamore Counseling Services in Livonia, MI. “Assuming that a person is in relatively good health, pervasive feelings of discontent can be the body’s way of telling them that something is missing.”

McNally suggests filling that gap with a new interest or passion. “[They] provide the key ingredients to happiness: connection and purpose,” she says. “Once you find something that uniquely ignites your passions and have the courage to begin, it’s all about staying the course.”

It’s never too late to discover a new thrill that enlightens, educates and makes you happier. Remember, stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t just okay – it’s encouraged.

Pick up a new instrument (or dust off an old one)

Studies link enhanced electric activity in the brain with an ability to play an instrument. Not only can deciphering those notes make us sharper — it can make us happier. Just ask Amalie Drury, a Chicago-based editor who, in her mid-30s, began playing flute and piccolo in a community orchestra. “It completely rekindled my love of classical music,” she says.

"I listen to works we're rehearsing during my commute and it's a calming, much-needed break from the news. When I'm practicing in rehearsal, it's the opposite of screen time: I'm reading notes printed on paper, counting, paying attention to signals from the conductor and fellow musicians. I'm living in the moment," Drury explains.

Picking up a new or long-forgotten skill can also have benefits that extend beyond a lesson or class. "Playing with the orchestra also helps unlock my professional creativity as a writer. The music itself is a language with endless nuance, and the words and metaphors our conductors use to help us interpret it often lead to 'aha moments' in my work,” says Drury.

Studies link enhanced electric activity in the brain with an ability to play an instrument.
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Learn a new language — coding

Many people want to learn French, Spanish or Mandarin, but what about learning the language of computers? There are many different coding languages, and learning a few of them can help you both gain marketable job skills and have fun.

Whether your goal is to become a pro software engineer or learn some basics to help you spruce up your blog, there are now a wealth of coding courses and bootcamps out there that teach coding skills. Try a course and see how you like it. Giving yourself a challenge that could be personal and professional might be just the thing you need to get out of a rut.

Test-drive your green thumb

No garden? No problem. Even in tiny spaces, you can get the joys of a green scene with terrariums, a glass container in which plants are grown. According to the garden and design site Gardenista, terrarium planting — creating curated gardens in miniature — was identified as one of the top six gardening trends in 2018.

For inspiration, familiarize yourself with the ready-made terrariums available in home design, garden and even big box stores. Then, hit up a garden supply or craft store for supplies or a DIY kit and get the pleasure of putting every stone, succulent, puff of moss and figurine in its place.

an arrangement of different succulents in a round, glass planter sits on a work desk

Cut loose in a dance class

Dance is both an aerobic exercise, able to get your heart rate up, and a stress reliever. Take it from Maribel Demeter, who teaches hip-hop dance every week. “If you can take that one hour out of your day and forget about what is going on in your life outside of the exercise studio, and just get lost in the moment, it can really go a long way.”

Demeter herself, who was new to dance instruction after years of weightlifting teaching, sees the fun side of it too. “I’m a suburban mom of three teenagers in my late 40s. I now have an excuse to wear drop-crotch pants, crazy leggings and flannels.”

Turn junk into gems

A wave of home design and remodeling shows have turned the nation into fixer-upper lovers. Try what they do on your own micro level: Take to the streets and transform trash — a threadbare chair, a lamp in need of rewiring, that three-legged desk — into your treasures. Online how-tos will help you do anything from reupholstering furniture to refurbish wooden decor.

Get inspired by the example of Karen Spencer, a college coach in Burke, VA, who, on a lark, began picking up items at garage sales and off the curb and touching them up for resale. She made a healthy profit, but Karen says she doesn’t do it for the money. “That’s really just a side benefit. After spending a semester abroad in China in college and seeing abject poverty, I hate waste. I’m keeping something out of a landfill and someone else is getting something cheaper than they could buy it elsewhere. That’s a win-win to me,” says Spencer.

Find your new audio entertainment fix

Everyone loves music, but there is another growing audio medium that makes for a great hobby: podcasts. Although podcasts have been around for years, they have definitely gained a wider audience lately. In 2018, regular podcast listeners have increased their listening time by 40%, according to the Infinite Dial study from Edison Research and Triton Digital.

Why not be one of the people grabbing ears? Start your own podcast. It's easy. Search for one of the many free websites where you can record, edit, create show art, publish your podcast and even get analytics on how many listeners you have. Make it a family affair and get your whole crew involved.

an older man wearing protective eyewear stands at a work shop sanding and cutting wood

Just do you — for a good cause

You can never go wrong with finding your niche, as wild and wonderful as that may be, and owning it. One shining example is Jenny Davis, a Fort Worth, TX, fashion stylist and not-so-secret sci-fi movie lover, who now visits children’s hospitals dressed up as characters from her favorite films. She even brings her family along — in costume, of course. Jenny’s commitment to her passion has very inspiring end results.

“The first time I went to visit kids in the hospital, it was absolutely overwhelming because I am a mom and these children and their families are so brave,” Davis says. “But also because this costume I was wearing had the power to lift their spirits and give them such hope.” So try brainstorming outside-the-box ways to use your passion for the greater good. And then go for it. Of course, volunteers for a range of programs are always in need of people with various skills. So why not couple a passion — art, reading, woodworking, cooking — with an organization that helps others, too?

Try brainstorming outside-the-box ways to use your passion for the greater good.
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Sometimes it takes a little soul-searching — or good old-fashioned trial-and-error — to find that special new interest that rejuvenates you. Luckily, there's no end to the possibilities, if you're willing to put yourself out there.

Kelly Aiglon

believes comfort zones are meant to be broken out of and has found happiness in a new "side gig" as a group fitness instructor. Her writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, AAA Living, Hunker and more.