Discovering Purpose Beyond the Daily Grind: The Importance of Hobbies & Recreation for Mental Health

In my practice as an outpatient therapist at Foundation Counseling and Wellness, I often talk with patients about what they like to do for fun or if they have a hobby. Surprisingly, most people don’t know what they are interested in. Isn’t it fascinating that we carry our water bottles with us everywhere, make doubly sure our phones are charged and our coffee is ordered to perfection, but we aren’t really sure what we are passionate about (maybe with the exception of our coffee order)? Does it matter? Yes.
Research shows that individuals who have a strong sense of purpose and meaning in life tend to have better mental health, overall well-being, and cognitive functioning compared to those who lack a sense of purpose. Calling it a passion may be too strong a word, but pursuing a personal, recreational interest can offer purpose and strengthen your mental health and resilience.

Find Your Balance

You are probably familiar with the old adage, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” For many, all work and no play doesn’t make them feel dull, but rather “overflowing, overpacked, and overstimulated.” For some, their passion may be their career, family, or education, but purpose can also be found outside of these arenas. Purpose comes from a sense of self-knowledge and must be created, not found, meaning that you may need to put in some work to “find” it.
The point of finding your interest isn’t to make you feel as if you are adding one more thing to your plate. Try to look at it as adding something to give better quality to your days, to look forward to, or to improve your overall outlook. Happiness research shows that trying new things increases dopamine levels in the brain, contributing to sustained levels of contentment. Perhaps instead of searching for things to reduce the number of things you do, look for something that ‘pulls you forward’ or gives you a deeper sense of meaning, such as a new/old hobby.

Put in the Work to Find the Play

Choosing your activity doesn’t need to be complicated. For example, I have always been drawn to making things with my hands. When I was in 6th grade, I built a seismograph out of wood, a Bic pen, and a rusted-out coffee can for extra credit for my science class. It was no work of art; it was big and clunky, and pretty ridiculous, but I was proud of it. It brought me joy, and it’s something I remember to this day. So, when I recently realized I needed to do something to change my work-life balance, I asked myself the following questions:
  • What do I like to do?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What pulls me forward?
  • What is something I have always felt drawn to but haven’t had the time or resources to accomplish?
  • What is something I enjoy doing and lose track of time while doing it?
Ask yourself these questions. Remember, the goal is to add something that will help give a sense of joy, purpose, or meaning. Try not to get too caught up in the process. Simply notice what delights you and start to move in that direction. I decided I wanted to get back into woodworking, so I joined an online woodworking group and began to get inspired by what others were making. After a couple of months of scrolling, I decided to make something of my own. It was really fun, and I am proud of what I made. I am not nearly as proud as I was of my 6th grade seismograph, but proud, nonetheless. Now, as I ponder my next project, I look forward to what I will make and the pleasure in the process.
As I often say to my patients, how can you use this little bit of information to make a small change? Take time to notice what you love – give yourself the gift of being pulled forward into meaning and purpose. You will find your work-life balancing and your mental health improving.
Julie-Klink.jpgJulie Klink, LICSW at Foundation Counseling and Wellness



Psychology Today. Five Steps to Finding Your Passion. Posted May 8, 2012, from
Psychology Today. How Creating a Sense of Purpose Can Impact Your Mental Health. Posted March 7, 2022.

Posted: 2/19/2024 by Julie Klink, LICSW at Foundation Counseling and Wellness