How to find a hobby?
June 30, 2010 4:18 PM   Subscribe

I've been told by my doctor that I need interests/hobbies. What are your hobbies and how did you get them?

You'd think it would be a simple stupid thing to solve but one of the problems w/ major depression is that you lose all interest in..well, pretty much everything. For myself, even thinking of how to start to have interests in anything is a pretty big step and I'm utterly clueless at it.

I do enjoy reading but my ability to do that comes and goes. I go months not being able to read beyond a simple sentence so that isn't something I can rely on.

I've learnt to crochet on my own but gave that up after a bit since I couldn't master the patterns that I wanted and got tired of making toys when I had nothing to do with them.

Other than that it has been just random surfing online which occupies my time. Apparently this isn't what he means or considers healthy.

I can't even think of one thing at all that interests me and I can't conceive of how I would do so. So I'm seeking inspiration from others. How did you get started in your hobby and do you have any suggestions for me?
posted by kanata to Grab Bag (75 answers total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a birder. Got started because I saw a cool bird that I could not at all identify; went on a hike with a friend who knew a lot more than I did, and who turned me on to a volunteer gig that involves counting migrating hawks as they cross the Golden Gate.

It's not expensive (barring an outlay for decent binoculars), and you can do it almost anywhere. It can be done with other people - that's best for when you're just getting started - or by yourself. And it gets you outside and walking around.
posted by rtha at 4:25 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

IT's not depression now (which isn't to say that I've always been like this) but there are days I wouldn't even get out of bed if it weren't for my pets. They're good for me that way.

Obviously a pet has to be a hobby you do because you *want* a pet; it's easy to neglect something you got out of a sense of obligation instead of out of a sense of affection. And pets do need care: clean water, feeding, bathing, grooming, keeping ears clean and toes trimmed and teeth brushed. But if that kind of thing seems like something you could go for, a pet is a real help.
posted by galadriel at 4:27 PM on June 30, 2010 [6 favorites]

Go for walks. It's something you can do alone or with friends, in natural areas or your own neighborhood or exploring new ones. You can listen to music or podcasts, or just walk in silence and appreciate the world around you. Walking is good for your body and even better for your brain.
posted by something something at 4:32 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I re-painted some of my own wooden furniture (and a bunch of old wooden picture frames) for the first time recently, and found it to be incredibly fun and fulfilling. Sanding them, priming them, painting them. It's a fun and inexpensive thing that I just had never tried before, but found relaxing (and easy to do), it gives my apartment a little bit of a new look, and know that I did it myself. I don't need any more furniture in my apartment, but I keep glaring around wondering what else I can paint! If you like working with your hands, it might be a fun thing to try - maybe even find some old furniture on Craigslist, and give it some fresh life.
posted by raztaj at 4:35 PM on June 30, 2010

My hobby is teas. I got into them through home-roasting of coffees. I like the taste of coffee but it does not agree with my body. I figure that if it's possible to make coffee that tastes good, the same may be true for teas, and I've found many rare and unusual teas since then.
posted by rainy at 4:36 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take courses at your local community college. You could take a class in introductory pastry baking, bioethics, apparel design, hip-hop theory and philosophy, anthropology or whatever rings your bell. Lectures are scheduled, so you'll have no excuse to postpone them or drop them, and you'll feel proud of your accomplishment with each assignment you turn in.
posted by halogen at 4:37 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you're depressed, it seems like no hobby will interest you. If you are to take your doctor's recommendation, I would think that means you should do something (anything) whether you think it sounds interesting or not since you can't currently trust your opinion about it.

For what it's worth, I like photography. It gets me out to see parts of my city/country/world. I like the instant gratification and the feeling of creating something without having to expend too much effort on the creation. I also like that there are a lot of toys to lost after/buy, and there always seems to be more to learn.

Volunteering may also be a good hobby type of activity. You'll be able to help somebody, and you'll be more likely to interact with other people.
posted by willnot at 4:39 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Start doing things that aren't hobbies. Do things regularly for the sake of it. Walk, tidy your home, tend your garden. Keep it practical and dispassionate. You don't need an interest, you first need the reason and motivation to do something worthwhile regularly. Once you have ignited that within yourself your passion for other things will grow.
posted by fire&wings at 4:39 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Donate your finished toys to a local children's hospital/ homeless shelter/ other place where children need comfort? I feel your pain; front and back post double crochet seem to be part of *everything cool,* and I struggle with them badly.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:41 PM on June 30, 2010

Go outside. Go to the library. Go to the park. Go to the gym. Go see a play. Go hear a talk. Go dance in a club. Go fly a kite. Just go.

....and it sucks.

OK, now try doing something else. Anything. Absolutely anything that gets you out of the house and away from your computer screen.

Drive around aimlessly listening to the radio. Go to a mall and people-watch. Go across town to get a sandwich.

I firmly believe changing your external landscape can change your internal landscape. You don't have to hike the Himalayas or go sky-diving. Just go and BE somewhere else for a while. Regularly.

And you'll find things that catch your eye. Your attention will naturally settle on SOMETHING. "It'd be neat to learn to play the lute." "Disc golf looks like fun." "I like going to these minor-league baseball games." "This is a great shady spot to sit and read."

The important thing isn't what you choose -- it's that you chose.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:41 PM on June 30, 2010 [51 favorites]

if you have access to a gps, geocaching provides a good excuse to go walking and a reward of 'yay, i found the thing'.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:43 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Along the lines of rmd1023, I like orienteering because it's a hike but it has a REASON and a puzzle to solve (and you can do it in teams, so you can go with a friend).

I get together with some friends for "craft night" when we just bring things to do ... even when I'm not really feeling like my hobby (embroidery), it's nice to do while spending time with other people. A "hobby night" might be really nice.

I also like the above ideas about taking classes -- any classes. You'll have somewhere to go and someone to talk to a couple nights a week, and you might find something you like!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:48 PM on June 30, 2010

Are you artistic? I sketch - which can turn into a more involved project. I take lots of photographs for fun (which also leads to something more involved if I become inspired).

Start with things that inspire you to go deeper.

I cook, and I put no pressure on myself to be "great" at it when I do. That's how it's become an interest that I attempt to hone as a skill (keeping it fun, at least at first!.

A book club might be a good idea for you.
posted by marimeko at 4:48 PM on June 30, 2010

make a granny square quilt. approach it like patchwork - make tons of different granny squares and then arrange them into whatever pattern (or not!) that you want. i'm considering pixel art for mine.
posted by nadawi at 5:00 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I make jewelry for myself and others. A few years ago my mother wanted us to take a beading class (quality bonding time) so we did. The finished project was a simple necklace. I was so proud that I bought some more beads and made a matching bracelet.

The basics of bead stringing and wire working are easy to learn. Beads and beading wire are pretty cheap, so it's easy to amass a pretty big stash of materials to work with that doesn't take up a lot of room. And there are many jewelry making blogs and websites out there to pass the time.

The biggest feel-good for me is giving my jewelry away. I can't possibly wear all the items I crank out, so I'll pass some on to family, friends and coworkers who have admired the stuff on me.
posted by ladygypsy at 5:00 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I learned to crochet when I was twelve but didn't get into it until I learned to make granny squares. I made a few afgans for my kids and gave it up again. It makes my fingers hurt.

Then I taught myself how to knit because I wanted to be able to make a Weasley Sweater (from the Harry Potter books, don't laugh. Okay, you can laugh a little.) But I still haven't made a sweater. They take too much time and I don't have the attention span. I like making baby stuff and donating it to my local Children's Hospital. Knitting is very relaxing for me and helps a lot with my anxiety.

I also do my own kind of abstract paintings. You could start by getting some cheap acrylic paints (get the kind for crafting and it'll cost less than a dollar a bottle) some cheap brushes and some canvas board. Then prop one against a bottle and put paint on canvas. Put on some music and just paint whatever comes to you. You might actually like the outcome. If you stay abstract there isn't even anything you can find wrong with it which helps if you are self critical ("But my cat painting looks nothing like a cat! Ugh, I give up!")

Gardening is good if you have a yard. Something about getting your hands dirty can be very therapeutic. It also gets you out in the sun which helps some people's depression.

Send yourself on scavenger hunts. Just walking around gets you out and moving, so give yourself a list of things you have to find:

A man wearing a blue shirt.
A woman with a red purse.
A child eating candy.
A dog sleeping.
Three different kinds of flowers.
A shop with nobody in it.

Make your list as complicated as you want, but don't freak out if you don't find everything. You can always add it to your list next time.

Wander through the non-fiction section of your library. You might find a book on something that interests you. I used to have to kill a lot of time waiting in a library and I decided that every day I would learn something new. Sometimes I just spun around and pointed at a shelf, then closed my eyes and touched a book. I learned a lot of fun stuff that way.

I also completely agree that a living thing to take care of can make a huge difference. Some days the only reason I get out of bed is because I have to take care of my kids. Before that it was my dog. Before that it was my guinea pig. Although the things that give you affection are the most satisfying.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:01 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

I tried a lot of different crafts before I settled on knitting. It's cheap compared to some craft supplies, portable, doesn't require a lot of thought, and creates useful items.

That last item was the real killer, when I was looking for a hobby. You take the output of most crafts and meh, who really needs that thing?

Knitting got me involved in the knitting community. There are local knitting groups near you (I guarantee it) where you can drop in, knit for a bit, socialize, get help, etc. Every yarn store hosts a knit night, for one thing.

Online there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of knitting blogs. You can start one yourself! I love LOVE the idea of "blogging myself knitting my way out of depression" please memail me the URL if you start that because I would TOTALLY dig it! You can also comment on other people's blogs, say hi, reach out, ask questions, connect, etc.

And of course there's Ravelry which is like the Metafilter of knitting and crochet. Be sure to join the Mefi Ravelry group and say hi!

Try this:

1. Buy a skein of cotton dishcloth yarn, which you can find at Joann's, Michaels, and even Walmart. Cost: about $2!

2. Cast on 35 stitches.

3. Knit every stitch (i.e. garter stitch) for about 60 rows, or 30 garter stitch ridges.

4. Bind off.

posted by ErikaB at 5:09 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Take a physically demanding class, like dance or arobics or self-defense. There really is nothing like excersize to energize the spirit. Of course, this supposes you can work up the wherewithal to actually go... But try something you've always wanted to do.

(Me, I've always wanted to be a figure skater. It's never going to happen, but taking the toddler ice skating class as an adult was sooooo much fun! They're just so cute! And they *really* don't care if you look like an idiot!)
posted by Ys at 5:11 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Learn to play a musical instrument.
posted by gnutron at 5:12 PM on June 30, 2010

If you can't geocache--sometimes the gps units are expensive--you could letterbox! It involves art (carving your own stamp, enjoying others' stamps), mystery (Where is the thing hidden? Some of the letterboxes even have super mystery clues that require internet detective work), and exercise/outdoors (bonus! exercise & vitamin D are good for depression!).

AtlasQuest is the major US site; they also have listings for Canada, but the quantity varies depending on your province. You can also try Letterboxing North America, though they almost always overlap with AQ.

It's a great hobby that will get you out of the house and show you new, weird, cool places all around you. It helps to have a buddy, both to motivate you and to keep you safe when you're way out in the woods or poking around suspiciously in semi-public places.

I am literally in the exact same position you are. I am depressed, not interested in anything, and have a hard time understanding how it is that people develop hobbies and keep up with them. Thanks for asking this question.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 5:13 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]

If you don't have any burning intrinsic desire to try a particular hobby, then why not start by trying stuff based on whether there's a class or club that meets at a convenient time and location. Stick with whichever hobbies have the best combination of fun activities/fun people.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:14 PM on June 30, 2010

I love, love to read but sometimes the stress gets too much and I don't want to think. When that happens I go to the toy store, buy a couple of plastic models and put them together. It could be anything, cars, space shuttle, planes, etc. It just has to be something that I can sit at the table and do without really having to think beyond following the next step. I don't even paint them or keep them. It is just the act of putting them together I find soothing.
posted by govtdrone at 5:26 PM on June 30, 2010

I spend spare time: 1) playing soccer (good exercise, social, usually scheduled so it's not easy to bail); 2) volunteering at a prison (feels good to help people, a very interesting environment and people -- the other volunteers and the inmates); 3) watching movies/tv shows/soccer (not really what you're looking for, not active or social really); 4) paper crafts (a solitary thing, but maybe you can do scrap-booking with a group?); jewelry making (same as previous). Reading, also, but it sounds like you might not be ready to enthusiastically jump into that. It's also solitary, unless joining a book club sounds good to you.

Volunteering at something might be good for you, forcing you out of the house. Maybe think of what was interesting to you in years past (be a museum docent, or lead city tourist walks, or help out at a local school). Committing to a schedule with an organization kind of forces you out of the house, in a way that picking up something more solitary that you are lukewarm about might not. I also agree with the suggestion to take a community college class. I took college level Spanish several years ago and the nature of the course (skits, group projects, singing), plus the other students made it very fun and social.

Best of luck! If something doesn't pique your interest after a few tries, don't be afraid to try something else. Think of it as an ongoing adventure!
posted by JenMarie at 5:27 PM on June 30, 2010

I sew. I want cute clothes that fit me, so I learned how to make them.

I cook. I love food, I love eating, I love shopping for something new and exciting that I've never tried before. I love learning a new technique, I love feeding my friends, I love creating from the lovely season bounty here in my area.

I work on motorcycles. I got a motorcycle, and it needs maintenance. I have friends who are very skilled mechanics and willing to show me how to work on my bike. Cheaper than going to a shop, and I learn and get to spend time with my friends.
posted by mollymayhem at 5:27 PM on June 30, 2010

I play Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. I also have a blog that I update Monday - Thursday, rain or shine.
posted by griphus at 5:28 PM on June 30, 2010

I have a question: would you rather do something alone or with people?
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:34 PM on June 30, 2010

From Ms. Vegetable:

I understand, and I'm sorry to hear you're not interested in anything of sorts right now. :-(

When I'm feeling happy, I bake. It really kicked off when I started a new job a while back and wanted to ensure that they wouldn't fire me. It's worked. Mr. Meat has also taken numerous baked goods to his office (he's taking a chocolate layer cake with marshmallow middle layer frosting and chocolate ganache on top tomorrow - yum); this makes a good icebreaker when I meet his coworkers. It also makes me feel good when I get compliments from people on how they liked my baked goods.

The other thing I do is crochet. I make baby blankets. I feel that every baby deserves a handmade blanket, and a giant granny square is fast and easy. One friend even offered to pay for a second one so that his baby girl would always have one available. I also joined a stitch and bitch group, which my therapist wholeheartedly supports, and highly recommend one. It gives me concrete time to work on my projects, and it's never awkward if we're not talking because we're all there to work. I've gotten lots of great ideas from the other people, not just about knitting/crocheting, but also traveling, roller derby, and the EPA. Project Linus is a big project I know about where you can donate handmade blankets if you'd like.

I also love people watching. I'll go sit in a cafe and take copious notes on the kinds of shoes people are wearing, for instance. Or I'll pick a different neighborhood and see just how many people have visible tattoos, or find out how many people order a baked good with their coffee. I think the scavenger hunt idea shared above would be great for this sort of thing.

Good luck.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:35 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Take a bike ride! It's not really a "hobby" so much as a curiosity about what's over the next hill. It gets you outdoors in the sunshine and wind. Best of all, it is inherently compelling. Unlike, say, reading, where you have to make yourself focus, the desire not to crash is naturally quite motivating.

The only limiting factor is the number of really neat bike routes you can find. But you can start just by noodling around your neighborhood on some beater you bought for $30 at a garage sale.
posted by slidell at 5:37 PM on June 30, 2010

I got started knitting after my grandmother died. I started with super easy stuff, and now my only hangup to doing intricate lacework is it takes so goddamned long. Crocheting and cross-stitching I learned from my aunts when I was a kid.

I got into video games as an adult. I get to fuel the semi-creative side of me, and I play enough different types of games that I can keep myself occupied no matter what the mood.

I also started volunteering at various places so that I'd have something to do outside the house as well, since I'm unemployed.

I play roleplaying games. Anyone who thinks tabletop dice-slinging RPGs aren't a social activity has clearly never played one. Gets your brain working, helps with creativity, and you get to meet neat people.
posted by Heretical at 5:37 PM on June 30, 2010

Man oh man can I relate. I was once in a similar situation and asked people to suggest hobbies. People gave me the strangest looks.

Baking, which has been suggested, is good. Going to a town center/shopping district/etc. can also be a great way to kill an afternoon. You don't really even need to spend any money. Walk around. Sit down on a park bench or in a bookstore coffee shop or some other such area. Just watch the world. On any given day you'll see the damnedest things.
posted by resiny at 5:46 PM on June 30, 2010

When I was very depressed and anxious, and very poor, I decided to perfect my own masala chai recipe. Many health food stores sell all the necessary spices in bulk, very very cheaply.

The recipe is very simple, but it takes a good half-hour to make it from scratch, another half-hour to enjoy drinking several cups, and months to decide on a personal favorite combination.

In a coffee grinder or preferably with a mortar and pestle, grind up some combination of cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, etc. Add this to boiling water, steep for 5 minutes or so. Pour in an equal amount of milk, bring -just barely- to a boil (don't let the milk burn!), throw in some tea leaves and let steep 3-5 minutes. Strain out the tea leaves and spices. Add some kind of sugar. Enjoy slowly.

Here's your first hint: Add a LOT of sugar to make the drink taste 'full.'

Somehow, it was always both calming and mood-lifting.
posted by sunnichka at 5:51 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

A friend's therapist suggested that he feed the ducks in a local park every day and it really helped him. He waked to the park, fed the ducks and walked home. As the days went by, he noticed more and more about the walk and the ducks.
posted by Duffington at 5:53 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

Check your Mefi mail. I wrote a tl;dr comment so sent it to you there.

Nthing anything crafty. To infinity and beyond.

It's lovely that so many people have great hobby suggestions, but having just been-there-done-that with the black dog (is that a common expression for depression, or purely Australian?), I know that you find it impossible to get motivated. I didn't understand that until I went through it. I know that getting started again is a matter of taking small steps, and I also know how bloody hard it is to take even that first tiny step.

I hope my Mefi mail gives you some insight into how I was able to 'get started' again.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:53 PM on June 30, 2010

Lots of interesting suggestions. Thank you.

To answer a few questions:
I already have a cat and while he does provide company on the worst of days I think about giving him away so he can be better cared for so another animal would be worse I think.

I'm not that artistic. When I was a teen I enjoyed drawing but I have a huge perfectionist problem that delays me from doing anything since.

I guess I am looking for something I can do on my own as I have a hard day leaving the house most days and only one friend in town so no one really to do stuff with. I'd be super anxious to jump into a group setting of any sort.

I'm trying to take small steps at first as otherwise the whole idea of doing anything gets so overwhelming that I end up self-destructing.

It was suggested that I get a hobby/interest so when I'm having self-destructive thoughts I would have something to turn to so that I can distract myself with.
posted by kanata at 5:58 PM on June 30, 2010

The phrase black dog is known in the US, but not super commonly. Maybe.

My hobbies: cooking, working out, kayaking.

I've cooked my entire life but got into it super hard after my depression. It started out as a constructive kind of activity - I mean, at the end of cooking, you have food. Pretty high pay-off. Then it became a social thing, and a networking thing. And now it's led into me baking a wedding cake, which is a huge, great project. But in the beginning, just the act of getting dressed, driving to the store, shopping, and coming home made me feel so normal. I remember one particular trip when it was the first time I felt okay in years. I'd bought some peanut butter, and a granny smith apple.

Working out started out mid-depression - weight was part of my problems. Now I run with coworkers, and have a few buddies at my gym. I've just gotten to the point where they'll nag me if I'm missing for a couple of days, which helps.

Kayaking - my mom signed me up for an outdoors group, and the ONE activity I did in a year was a kayaking trip/beer tasting. It was great! So I got myself a season pass and it's a once a week activity now.

Something that I realized, having gotten the same advice, is that I HATE having to commit to something in advance. If there are weekly meetings, I'll miss 'em. If it's a mostly independent thing, with occasional, spontaneous meetups, I'm better. In practical terms - a weekly yoga class didn't work for me; a pay-as-you-go boxing class did. You may or may not be the same way, but once I realized that I can't do schedules like that, I started not resenting my hobbies.

I hope this helps. Best of luck.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:10 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I cook. Not every day, but a lot. I started doing it out of necessity, as a broke college student who couldn't stand cafeteria food. It's a practical way to harness creativity (though you can just follow recipes at first) and you feel efficient when you're doing meal planning and saving money. It can be a social activity, but it's something you can do just by and for yourself. Most of my meals are one or two portions. There's definitely some things I can't make for myself, but it isn't as limiting as you might think. Even the shopping can be fun; you get to check out speciality stores and farmer's markets and come up with excuses to use unfamiliar ingredients.

Even in the times I've been depressed I still cooked regularly, often partly out of necessity but I did enjoy the process once I got started. I think it would be harder if you're just getting into it, since most used recipes are less effort, and produce more consistent results, now that I've practiced them so often. The biggest problem I had with depression was doing the dishes.

Pasta is a good place to start. Or rice dishes if you buy a rice cooker. I find meat to be more of a challenge (except for shrimp). If you do take up cooking, get a good chef's knife and keep it sharp. It makes prep a lot faster and more pleasant.
posted by serathen at 6:10 PM on June 30, 2010

Try learning a language? It can take as much or as little time as you want, and when you're feeling sociable you can go to drop-in groups where beginners practice the language. You can also take classes if you crave a bit of structure. The measurable progress you'll make can be very rewarding.
posted by Pomo at 6:20 PM on June 30, 2010

You might find moodgym helpful:

A good site for dealing with depression. It might help you with some of your anxiety in trying new things.
posted by cmccormick at 6:23 PM on June 30, 2010

birding and nature.
get a book on identifying birds in your area. and start trying to figure out the birds around you. on good days, take hikes in nearby parks, and try to see more.

get a book on the trees in your area, and do the same.

to get good at identifying birds and trees, it helps a lot to search the inter-net for photos of the species. and to read a lot, and research on-line. there is a definite, stay at home component to learning this - but as you progress in learning, what you are learning will encourage you to get outside and really see it.

as you go about your daily life, you will begin to be able to identify different things. it will spur you on to want to see more. There are trees and birds around you every day, that most people never see. You will start to notice this tree there, being so big most be so many years old. i always seem to see these birds near here, they most live nearby.

there is something deep and spiritual about learning to identify and see the amazing natural world around you.
posted by Flood at 6:31 PM on June 30, 2010

I very much identify with this problem. After trying and failing to get interested in a variety of hobbies, the one that finally caught my attention is swing dance. Swing dancing is very low-key and social, so the emphasis is on having fun rather than perfection or competition. Perhaps because of this, I've found it to be a very friendly group of people. Watching great dancers can be exciting and inspiring, but it doesn't take long to learn a couple simple steps that are enough to bob along happily (if not impressively). At dances it's common to change partners every song so you get to meet lots of people. And as a bonus, it's great exercise that I find much more interesting than going jogging!

I got started by finding a location in my city that offered free drop-in novice classes before their weekly social dances. It was an easy way to give it a try without any commitment. Now I'm taking weekly classes because I'm eager to get good enough to do the cool things I see other people doing. If you live somewhere urban there's bound to be an enthusiastic and welcoming swing dance community.
posted by ootandaboot at 6:45 PM on June 30, 2010

I play guitar.

I went through several sudden major life changes all at once earlier this year. I could see what was happening and I wanted to force myself to do something to get out of the sadness/sit-around-the-house-and-do-nothing-but-mope-ness. I actually had a guitar already, which I bought 8 years ago, but I wasn't really committed to putting in the time and effort then and so I gave it up pretty quickly. This time, I was inspired by several of my friends who play, and thought often about picking it back up again.

I just forced myself to practice as much as I could. It helped, because if I was feeling sad I could pick up my guitar and distract myself for a good while. I got really into it; I was able to just play for ages, focusing on getting the chords right, and the tempo right, and the words right. It was nice to have a big chunk of time where I didn't think about my problems, but just about playing this one thing correctly.

I also really liked that if I put in enough time and effort, eventually I would get it, pretty much. It's not like writing (my 'serious' hobby) where I can put in tons of time sometimes and never get the desired result. If I play a song 5000000 times, eventually I will get it, just muscle memory or sheer repetition or whatever.

Also when I tried to learn guitar before, I took lessons and I think the whole structure of that turned me off. I just teach myself really and although that's challenging, it's also great because it's totally up to me how much I practice or what I learn or whatever. It's really fun to be able to say, 'OK, today I just want to learn song x' and then just go for it.

I also like that there's lots of room for creativity, but you can also just learn songs note-by-note if you like. There are a lot of options and you can do one thing one day and another thing the next.

One more thing: I like that after months of playing, I have something to show for it. I'm still a beginner, but I can play you some songs. It's nice to have that concrete feeling of accomplishment when you've got a song down.

Oh, and you can get a guitar at pretty much whatever price you're willing to pay for it. Acoustic or electric. From $15 guitars on eBay to super expensive vintage guitars at that one shop on Denmark Street.
posted by Put the kettle on at 7:28 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I tend to fall into depression sometimes. I find cooking to be really enjoyable and something that is easy to focus on for a long time. And the results are likely delicious, if you enjoy food. It can be overwhelming at first if you don't know how to cook much of anything, but the more you learn the more fun it gets. I've gotten to the point where I've had to cut back on my feast-cooking because I wouldn't have time for anything else. However, it is something you need to plan for unless you get to the point where you have tons of things lying around the kitchen that you can just throw together.

I also enjoy trying to learn a language or two sometimes. The ones I've gotten into are Russian and Thai. These are a couple fun sites for getting started with Thai: Thai Language - Learn to Read Thai and Talking Menu for Thai Food

When I was younger, I used to make beaded lizard rings using beads and fishing line. If that sounds interesting to you, googling beaded lizards will bring up some how-to's on how to do it. Kids dig 'em. If you like the beads, and if you like jewelry-type stuff, the beads could come in handy for making necklaces and bracelets and so on, and that's something you could have lying around for when you're bored. I would also sew together cat mats stuffed with poly-fill and catnip using my mom's sewing machine. Cats LOVE them.

I also love learning about the birds in my yard, when I had a yard with birds other than pigeons, house sparrows, and starlings. When I was depressed and feeling useless, I'd love looking at the birds and learning all about them. All it requires is a bird feeder and some seed. Not exactly a social activity but I found it satisfying, and if you like them you could join an online forum with other birders and discuss what goes on in the yard.
posted by wondermouse at 7:36 PM on June 30, 2010

Volunteer at the local humane society. You can get loving from the animals without the commitment of ownership (although I doubt your cat cares or notices if you're depressed.) Depending on the facility's needs and rules for volunteering, you might be able to go in when you feel up to it, and not go in when you don't. (But in my experience with clinical depression, it helps
me get moving when someone is expecting me, and moving always makes me feel better.)

Other types of volunteer work (nursing homes, hospitals, homeless shelters, schools, etc.) may offer the same benefits to you.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:00 PM on June 30, 2010

I know where you're coming from, and I know it can be a pain to leave the house. I'd suggest a couple different things, some you do inside, and some you do outside, just so that there is something that pulls you outside from time to time.

You mention that you have a cat, but you're concerned about it's wellbeing. I know it's hard, but make an effort to make physical contact with your cat as often as it'll let you. Physical contact means a lot, and it can make the connection with your cat stronger. You might well find yourself taking better care of it, and yourself as a result.

You said house, do you have a yard? A balcony? Get outside. A lawnchair or something. Get out of the house (the depression came...FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!!!!). Seriously, it's a place where you can be alone and brood, and you don't need that. Even if it's just in the yard, it's good to be outside. As such, gardening could help. It's a routine, and you need to stick to it, or the garden won't flourish. Of course, I wouldn't start off with high maintainance anything, just some hardy plants. Growing your own vegetables is incredibly rewarding. They taste better, largely because it was your effort that made them.

Cooking is good, too. I cook most nights, and I've gotten into learning as much as I can about smoking and curing, which is great because it's no longer a half an hour to make a meal, it's a project that lasts several days, and needs regular attention.

If you can get to a point where you feel down, but you remember, shit, I need to water the garden, or crap, I've got to rinse the cure off the bacon and get it ready to smoke tomorrow, or even hey, the cat needs a solid belly rub, that feeling of being responsible (in a positive way) gets me up and out of funk in the morning/evening.

Other than choosing something that makes you responsible, music is fun, as, like cooking, it's something you're creating. I play bass (badly), and learning and playing a new song is like a victory everytime. Also, playing bass badly is easier than playing guitar badly. One string at a time is the way to go.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:06 PM on June 30, 2010

I think it would be wiser for you to try to discover what does interest you even if you just have a glimmer of curiosity about it. You likely have preferences, even if they're not full-blown interests. What kinds of sites do you randomly surf to? I know you said "random," but do you usually look for music or politics or whatever? Because whatever it is, it is likely to be an interest that you already have, that you might consider pursuing farther. If the theme/interest is politics, you could volunteer for a candidate. If music, maybe there's a local meetup on the genre you like. Also, look at your reading for clues. You say you enjoy reading -- what do you like to read about? That, again, is a clue to identifying your own interests.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:08 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh dear, I can relate to you. When depression and anxiety sets in, it's hard to find interest in anything.

I have found multiple ways to express myself and release some negative energy. I've tried so many things that someone once told me I "collect hobbies."

There are lots of good projects listed above. I can suggest or add/to a few.

Start off small. I've been meaning to get into collage. Whenever I see an image in a magazine or a picture on a website that resonates with me, I clip and save it. I have a bin full of pages that I think I will be able to paste together into some kind of crude artwork. It's not for anyone else, it's just for me. And it's going to be about me coming to terms with my anxiety. I assume that all you need is paper and a glue stick. Right now they aren't assembled because I just enjoy shuffling through the papers and looking at what I have and thinking about what they mean.

Geocaching was listed above and I found it really exciting. It got me out of the house and into places I would NEVER go to otherwise, which I think is healthy. I felt like a real explorer. Yes, it can be expensive to get a real gps device, but if you have an app phone with a gps built in, look for a geocaching app. A good one for Android is c:geo if you're interested.

Knitting is seriously therapeutic. This is where I transitioned to group situations. I found a church group of little old ladies that got together every night and knitted. They were wonderful. They were supportive, didn't judge and were willing to listen. I moved away and I miss them terribly. Not only were they kind people in helping with my emotions, they also helped me with my knitting which was very valuable.

My crazy out-of-the-blue hobby is kitsuke, the art of wearing Japanese kimono. I am not Japanese, nor had I ever had much of an interest in Japan until I started kitsuke. I found the luxurious, colorful textiles to be extremely pleasing to the senses and the hobby to be one of high skill and precision. It appealed to me in so many ways, that I just had to dive in. This hobby can cost lots of money, unless you learn some of the "tricks" and have some patience with online auctions. It's something that you can do at home when you are bored. It's something really unique and special that you can own, yet which also comes with a really supportive and helpful online community.

I'd be willing to talk to you about any of these things through MeMail if you'd like. Hang in there. I hope you find something!
posted by bristolcat at 8:14 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've started doing woodworking. I got into it because I needed a bookshelf, and now I have one!
posted by deadweightloss at 8:36 PM on June 30, 2010

I read somewhere recently that gifting something stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain. Maybe you could help yourself and others by making needed items for charity drives. I know there are still drives out there for Haiti, the oil spill, servicemen serving overseas, etc. Hospitals also are always in need of items, especially for babies.

Of course, exercise is a great help for depression. what about connecting with someone else looking for a walking/bicycling/whatever buddy to help with the motivation. Places to find that kind of thing would include the local library, craigslist (eh, can't believe I said that), local bulletins boards run by the city you live in, etc.

This may not be relevant, but has your doctor checked your vitamin D levels? I have heard low levels are associated with SAD, so that might possibly help. You live fairly far North, so your levels are more likely to be low.
posted by annsunny at 8:46 PM on June 30, 2010

I suggest starting a photo-a-day project (see Project 365). It costs nothing once you've got your camera, which can even be a cell phone. The only goal is to take one picture per day.

It's a great starting point because it can branch out into different hobbies. You can relate almost any activity with capturing your picture of the day, be it documenting something in your house, capturing a unique building in your town, or kids you saw at the park. Photography is an incentive to get out when you feel like it, but still enables you to stay home when you're just not up to facing the world.

I've been doing photo-a-day for 3.5 years now and it has exposed me to so many things, largely by accident. My newest hobby is cycling, which is a direct result of getting a bike so I'd have access to more areas to photograph.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 8:47 PM on June 30, 2010

When I was going through clinical depression, I started making jewellery. Now that things are better, I have a little business selling my jewellery on Etsy (not a self-link...).

Like you, I lost interest in most of the things I used to do. But boredom set in quickly and I found that I could only sleep so many hours a day. So I started wondering about what kind of easy, no stress thing I'd like to learn to do. I remembered making a simple beaded necklace when I was a kid and figured I could do that again, maybe with better materials. And if you've ever been to a bead store or even a general craft store, you know just how gorgeous beads can be. In my case, I went to Michaels had a look at the bead related books and magazines, picked one that was for beginners (it actually was a children's kit -- highly recommended when your brain feels a little muddled!), picked out a few basic tools and supplies and a big bag of pre-mixed beads.

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed my first foray into jewellery-making! The first necklace I made for myself was a little pretty something just for me, just for the fun of it and as a gift to myself. I never imagined I could actually end up being talented at this craft, but it turns out I kind of am! I don't think I'd ever have found out if it hadn't been for my depression.

Around the same time, I also learned origami. There's tons of info and tutorials online (the same is true for beading and jewellery-making), you can pretty much use any kind of paper and it has a bit of a zen feeling to it.

Try not to give up on crochet. Maybe instead of amigurumi, you could try making yourself a luxurious scarf for winter in a fun stitch or a granny-square lapghan. If you can, pick out the softest, most colourful yarn you can afford. It goes a long way towards adding interest to the craft.

Feel free to MeMail me for more info! Best of luck!
posted by MelanieL at 8:47 PM on June 30, 2010

Oh my...I'm a hobby jumper myself. Gets expensive, so I don't recommend it. But for me, however flighty that might be, it's about what I'm interested in. Some examples:

Birding/ moth pictures: Nature is everywhere, even in the suburbs, even in the cities. I like seeing a new bird, or taking a picture of something like a moth, and then going home to figure out why it behaved as it did, even the history of the bird or cultural significance. Maybe the moth or bird was even mildly rare, which means how lucky was I to have seen it? I like watching them for the crazy songs they sing to their mates, or the little songs they sometimes sing to themselves. Moths are one of the few insects I'm not freaked out by, and they're so fragile but so weirdly beautiful, and often very difficult to spot.

Jewelry making/ knitting/ embroidering/ collages/ making my own cards: Just some of the few crafty things I've done. I enjoy making things, usually for other people. For example, it can be satisfying to make a card (starting with paper or making it, maybe sewing funky designs on it or the envelope, stamping, gluing, painting, drawing are some ideas) and then write on it to someone I care about, not necessarily about me but even about random crap. Collages are like a scavenger hunt. Embroidering can be used to make some clothing or purses etc cooler, and you can combine it with making the clothes themselves.

I'm...weird, so other random "hobbies" include things like people watching, but with an added comment if I'm somewhere random, a store, about how I love their clothes or how their hair frames their face beautifully (sometimes they love it, sometimes distracted, sometimes just weirded out). Things like randomly chasing squirrels. Going into music stores and saying, "I don't listen to ___this___ genre. Recommend things. You have 5 minutes."

Also, while I'm not completely sure if I believe in religion myself (I'm researching a few right), it's not necessarily a bad idea to look into it. Don't feel pressured to jump into anything, if that's where you are right now, and don't get overwhelmed, but -do- take just a little time in figuring out who you are. I don't wanna say "Sit home and think think think upon your life!", but a little self introspection, even over some coffee at the local cafe, won't hurt. You just have to pair it off some healthy social relief. Too much of either, and you're likely to wipe yourself out (I've done it in the extreme in both directions).

The point is, I think, that it's okay to be somewhat random in figuring out what you now enjoy. You know some of those things you see advertised that you think, "Oh that'd be cool...someday" or "I wonder how they make that?" like classes for painting or karate or yoga or CPR or *Local Sheep Birthing - bring the kids and learn science!*? Just go to a couple. They won't hurt you, no one is going to judge you as to why you're there (if they do, it's their bad day, not yours), and you'll probably have fun or at least learn something new.
posted by DisreputableDog at 8:49 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was a teen I enjoyed drawing but I have a huge perfectionist problem that delays me from doing anything since.

I have the same issue (though not with drawing in my case -- I never had much talent in that regard), and if you think it would be something you'd enjoy again, I've found that it can sometimes help to explicitly set a rule that has nothing to do with the result being "perfect," and in fact actively prevents it. For example, you could set a time limit -- do ten sketches and none of them are allowed to take more than two minutes.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:08 PM on June 30, 2010

My whole life, if I find myself bored, I pick a random hobby. Perhaps I read about it, or walked past a place offering it, or a friend does it, or I had to sit around thinking something up. Once selected, I typically do a little reading, or go and take a class, or borrow equipment and get started, or what-have-you.

Some of these hobbies don't last a day; others stick like glue (ukulele? 5+ years now, and I play every day; scooter? almost 2 years now, and I ride at least once a week; roller skating? I go every week or two, and have for about 2 years now.) Past faves include learning the 3/4 string bass, swing dancing, amateur auto racing and improv classes. I've been getting restless lately, and was thinking about archery (just plucked it from the air!) until a friend mentioned a paintball get-together happening this weekend -- so it looks like I'm gonna see if I like paintball!

My point is, you just have to get out and DO. Try something. Ideally something that you can take a few classes on to get started, or that doesn't have a high entry cost. Don't worry about picking the perfect thing -- a hobby isn't a tattoo -- just pick something and see if you like it.
posted by davejay at 11:47 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Set yourself the task of writing a short paragraph about someone you see on the street, every day. What he looks like, whether he's in a hurry, eventually perhaps what kind of person he might be. If you enjoy writing you can embellish and invent stuff about him or her.

It doesn't have to be great but it gives you a reason to leave the house and a focus outside your head.

If you don't want to go outside you can catalogue objects in your home the same way.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:22 AM on July 1, 2010

I think it's great that you're looking for brainstorms for hobbies and activities - sometimes you need that spark to get you going.

However, the language of your post made me pause. You mentioned your doctor - is this a general practitioner or a psychiatrist/psychologist? Because if you're not seeing a professional about your depression, it sounds like you would really benefit from it. There have been many debates on MeFi about anti-depressants, and I don't want to start one, but if you haven't considered trying them, it might be something to think about. An SSRI could give you the boost you need to kick the depression-negativity cycle.

One suggestion I have is to reach out to your friends. Maybe try doing a hobby *with* someone? Take a knitting class or whatever. Do they know that you're feeling down? Talking really helps. Also your friends can help you get back up. I remember in college I got super-depressed when my Grandma died and I had a really hard time getting out of bed. I remember my friend (the illustrious user 139, if you must know) coming to my dorm room, pulling up the blinds, putting on music, dragging me out of bed, and basically forcing me to snap out of the funk I was in. Not that there is a magic button to push, but knowing that he was there and having his help to get going was pretty awesome.
posted by radioamy at 1:24 AM on July 1, 2010

I took the black dog out for a couple of laps around the block this winter.

Before that, I had looked back on being depressed when I was 20 and telling myself that I wouldn't have been so miserable if I'd been stricter with myself and kept up with my interests.

Then when the black dog showed up again, I was amazed at how hard it was to do anything but ruminate. My limbs felt like lead, it was a strain to put one foot in front of the other. I'm better now but I am still in the process of reincorporating myself because a lot of the habits and interests that define me are scattered all over in a debris field. So I am empathizing with you here.

But before I continue, I'd like to ask you to go and find your cat, brush him, and tell him you love him.

Now that you're back: I don't think you should do anything too demanding, but also not too boring. Exercise is probably a good start, and I think yoga is nice and you don't have to leave the house. I like the old Ali MacGraw video because it's very clear in its instruction, as well as being very atmospheric. Get a yoga mat and some nice yoga tops and pants so that you can get into the mood properly, even though there's no-one to see you.

You also might like some of Rachel Brice's belly dance instruction videos, as she is a pupil of Erich Schiffman, who is the real instructor behind the Ali MacGraw video. You might like to repeat a particular exercise over and over for one session to make sure you have it down, before moving on to the next move in the next session.

If you want to learn a language, check your library's online catalogue and see if they have any Pimsleur courses. These are the most fun and the least demanding ways to learn a new language as all you do is listen and repeat for 30 minutes, no memorizing etc., but unlike other methods of its kind, you do actually learn and make steady progress. If you can't decide on a language, pick one at random.

Once you're feeling stronger you'll have a clearer idea of what, if anything, you liked about this, and you can use that to branch to other activities.

In fact, why don't you try the activities I suggest, even if they seem wrong to you? After you try them, at worst you'll know for sure what you don't like, and if I'm stuck for the right thing I often just start with the wrong thing as a way of breaking the deadlock and branching to something less wrong.
posted by tel3path at 6:08 AM on July 1, 2010

I think you should go out, get a coloring book with something you like (animals? a Disney story?) and the biggest box of Crayolas you can find. When you're too depressed to do ANYTHING, you can still color. It's deeply satisfying.

They also make those pictures with the raised black nap? (knapp? knap?) where you color in between, so you basically CAN'T go outside the lines ... those are good too
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:23 AM on July 1, 2010

Also, if coloring doesn't appeal, try watercolor!
posted by salvia at 6:48 AM on July 1, 2010

I know exactly how you feel. Exactly. I could have written every word of this post. Even walking to the store is a major struggle some days. My doctor told me the same thing, only in my case she insisted that I overcome my social anxiety because that was the main thing keeping me in the house and on the internets (hi!). So I am forcing myself to go to a class once a week. My husband drags me out of the house on the weekends. It sucks, I won't lie. But the only way out is through.

Look at your web history. I bet it's not random. What sites are you going to? Even if it's just Metafilter, which posts are you reading? If you use Twitter etc what are you talking about? Look through Projects - what grabs your attention and makes you go "I wish I could do that"? Then learn how to do that. Contact the person and say "how did you learn how to do that?" Look around Etsy, MAKE, Instructables, DeviantArt, Flickr and those kind of sites. You don't have to show anyone what you make or draw so it doesn't matter if it "sucks." Almost everyone sucked at first.

You will always come up with excuses not to do something. Do it anyway.
posted by desjardins at 7:11 AM on July 1, 2010

In the past two years my new hobbies have been 1) running (and signing up for races) and 2) collecting and playing with twisty puzzles.

I started running by doing a few miles every other day or so. When I signed up for my first "race" I was slow but I had a goal. it was so fun and motivating, I signed up for a few more right away.

The twisty puzzles started one weekend after this thread when I decided it was time to learn to solve the 3x3x3 Rubik's cube. After a first solve that took 10 minutes, within a week I was down to 3. Then I found forums and a rabbit hole of resources online (4-dimensional cubes! 5-dimensional cubes! Minxes!). Now I have 10 puzzles, from a 2x2x2 to a Teraminx. It helps that right now (and the past 12-24 months) is a veritable golden age of puzzles thanks to V-Cube technology and the Twisty Puzzle forum.

More recently, I collect and play board games. Started with a few gateway games (Catan, Ticket to Ride) and moved deeper in to more involved games.
posted by yeti at 7:20 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think BitterOldPunk's answer is wonderful. We can all throw out suggestions about the things that we're into, but that seems sort of like throwing darts blindfolded.

There are times when I really need to get out and do something novel, just to step out of whatever routine I may have fallen into. Sometimes all it takes is finally taking 15 minutes to poke my head into a shop I've been driving past for years and always telling myself "I should really check that place out one of these days." Or just turning down that dirt road I always wondered about, just to see where it goes.

I think that geocaching and letterboxing work really well to this end; they're structured ways to get out and see new places and things, and (as trite as it sounds) it really is more about the journey than the destination.
posted by usonian at 7:22 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, it may be a bit too late but what about...RESEARCH?

Gosh, I love researching. At first, I got into Victorian life. I learnt to cook their dishes, I studied their currency equivalencies and made little tables of purchasing power of each coin, practiced pen calligraphy, learnt to fold letters the way they did (many awesome origami-like designs), prepared victorian teas with my sister, read an insane amount of books, fiction and non fiction, then studied Victorian politics and made little timelines so I could really get an idea of what the context in which Victorian england came to life. I swear, I have enough material and knowledge to publish a little handbook.

Then I saw the movie "Marie antoinette" with my sister. We became obsessed with French food. Specially desserts. We are into European pattiserie as of now. And Louis XV shoes.

We also had a Medieval stage, a Harry Potter stage, a Hindu stage, a Communism stage, and several others.

You could call it Live Research, because it's not only about reading and gathering info. It's about reproducing things, like plays, recipes, ceremonies, clothes, vocabulary, etc.

Give it a try! I hope this helps.
posted by Tarumba at 7:26 AM on July 1, 2010 [8 favorites]

I agree about hobbies that routinely force you to get the heck out of your house and away from your bedroom and any screens. Even if it's something as stupid as, as mentioned above, going to a mall or park or library and sitting on the bench and people watching. It's crazy how much my internal hopeless self-absorbed mindset shifts if I just am immersed in a novel less insular setting. Things that stretch your empathy and compassion a little are good--volunteering, reading about the world around you and places that are vastly different from your environment physically or politically or whatever, observing and interacting with people with totally different lives than yours (like say, parents if you're not one, or people with vastly different educational and professional backgrounds from yours), getting to know a child, etc.

Anyway, as for personal hobbies, mine are used book store crawls, tea and tea set collecting, wine and other foodie-type tastings, rollerblading, walking in areas I find beautiful or interesting, skiing when I can mange it (it's been so long... :(), ice skating, and cooking/dinner parties/easy-going food-centered social celebrations. I also like trying new hole in the walls around town and reviewing them, writing and reading poetry, drawing and occasional painting (hands on and messy = fun), going through favorite filmmakers' ouevres and reacting to them in a journal (Netflix + Criterion is good for this), playing with my cats, taking food photography for shits and giggles (low-key documenting of your hobby can help keep you enthused about it), playdates with my friends' toddlers (so fun), and picnicking with my husband. I also love collecting cookbooks and reading them cover to cover like a good novel in bed before sleep. The big thing with finding hobbies you like is not making them daunting at the get-go--that raises the bar too high and can be overwhelming, at least for me. Like. I've learned for myself anyway hobbies that demand a lot of upfront research, time, and money for tools etc. like woodworking or music-making stress me out and then I wonder if I'll just fail and it'll be a waste and concrete reminder of what a quitter I am, etc., and that's not a great path for me to go down. My hobbies don't seem as hobby-like as some, but I love them and they're not stressful or taxing to me, and they came about organically and gradually out of love and interest I already had until one day I looked around and realized my life was painted by said interest. That's cool too. They don't have to be super involved seeming on the face of it to be worthwhile.
posted by ifjuly at 9:07 AM on July 1, 2010

I'd recommend physical activity of some kind to start out with. For instance, sign up for a 5k or 10k event a couple months out and start training for it. Even better if you can recruit a friend or potential friend to do it with you. Walking helps free your mind for other thoughts, so I strongly recommend against listening to music while you walk. Instead, notice thie things around you. Listen to the birds. Look at the flowers. Part of my walking routine includes five minutes of reclining on a grassy hill and staring at the sky for 5 minutes or so, too.

Then, while you're walking, start to think of some of the things you found interesting while you were browsing through web pages or watching TV. Random things that catch your attention aren't so random.

How did I get interested in fitness? Well, I started working out (again) about 10 years ago by spending hours on a treadmill a week for weight loss. It got so boring and it became clear that exercise needs to be a daily part of my life, so I decided to mix it up. I saw a poster for triathlon training. I like biking, swimming and running, so I signed up for it, met a lot of people and had some fun.

When I was a teenager, my dad liked taking pictures on some trips we took as he resurrected one of his old hobbies. I thought it looked fun, so I picked it up too.

I went to a Mennonite auction one time where there were a lot of quilts so when I saw a flyer for a "speed cut quilt making class", I signed up.

So, just pay attention to what catches your attention and explore that. Also, make sure to get some exercise and I hope you feel better soon!
posted by rw at 11:04 AM on July 1, 2010

You say you don't think your cat is well cared for. Do you feed it? Does it have water? Does it have a clean litter box? Would you take it to the vet if it was sick?

If you can answer 'yes' to all of those (even if you don't clean the box as often as you think you should), then your cat is adequately cared for and there is no reason to give it away. And I would strongly encourage you to not give it away. Cats are solitary and require odd types of attention. It's not a dog, but even a dog would help in that it would get you out of the house because you HAVE to walk a dog.

When I was fighting "the black dog" (I LOVE that expression), I would come home, sit down, and talk to my cat. I would tell it that it was a good cat, I would stupidly ask it about its day ("Did you nap? Did you snack? Did you chase the toy mice?") I would brush it, I would try to get it to let me play with its paws (i love cat feet). It gave me the 'thing' to do when I got home: "I give the cat attention and praise." It is good for the cat. It is good for you. You might get some extra purring out of the deal which, I find, salves many wounds. It connects you to another living thing in a physical way, which has intangible benefits.

I would pick a route and walk it every day. Just make it a thing you do, like brushing your teeth. I agree that the time is good for you and the silence could also help.
posted by micawber at 11:32 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not that artistic. When I was a teen I enjoyed drawing but I have a huge perfectionist problem that delays me from doing anything since.

I was liek this, with drawing as well. To get over the perfectionist thing, i use cheap materials. Cheapo notebook paper and cheapo pencils or pens or whatever. For some reason, if I was using actual drawing paper or a artist pen, I felt like i was wasting it on my stupid doodles. So go cheap with your materials and you won't worry about it being perfect because its not made with artist quality materials anyhow. It also helped that I wasn't really a "word" person - I'd rather illustrate what I was thinking about than write about it.

Some other hobbies to try - I really like hiking. It's nice to do alone because it clears you head. I usually just use the internet to find parks that have nature or hiking trails and go to them. I just wear sneakers and bring a backpack with some snacks and water. Nothing professional, no need to go to an outdoor outfitter. I usually bring a camera to take pictures of stuff, like cool flowers, mushrooms, or pretty views.

I like watching tv while teetering on my Indo Board balance trainer. it makes watching tv more active so you don't get stuck in depressing passive entertainment brain funk.

Take a woodworking course. You're busy working with your hands and most of them are project based, meaning at the end you will have a physical representation of your accomplishmnet, that also doubles as something useful.

Lastly, learning to juggle is really nice. When juggling you really don't have the mental space to focus on anything but catching the damn projectile and tossing correctly at the same time. I learned with the book from Klutz press.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:22 PM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have found to be an excellent resource for finding new hobbies! I joined a nontheist group and a DnD group and they have both filled my days with something to do, and something to look forward to.
posted by rebent at 3:10 PM on July 1, 2010

I learned to brew beer and craft distill. I cook fancy foods (made my own sausage, even!). I garden. I play music with samplers and sequencers and vintage keyboards.

And I paint those little miniature figures that people use in gaming. Found I'm quite good at it. "Your pants will be BLUE!" It's also strangely relaxing and meditative.

How did I find any of these hobbies? I just let my interests guide me. Where the beer is concerned, for example: I live not too far from a homebrew shop...passed it every day on the way home from work. One day, I just stopped in, and have been glad ever since that I did.

Just let yourself get engrossed in something you find fascinating.
posted by kaseijin at 3:19 PM on July 1, 2010

Not everyone has a lot of hobbies they absolutely LOVE to do in their free time. When you want to develop some, it can feel like you are not really interested that much in anything or good at anything. But the thing is, if you have even an iota of interest in anything then next step you take is to pursue that interest. If something makes you wonder about even the slightest of things or the seemingly insignificant of things, you just think about it...try to find a bit more about it, maybe by reading a little take these steps because you are genuinely curious. If you follow the questions that arise in you mind, follow them and be mindful during the journey, you will surprise yourself.
This is how I developed some "hobbies". I just followed some questions that were, well, bugging me.

I will go against a lot of the advice here about getting out of the house. You are you and you know yourself best. You may not want to do things but its your decision which things you decide do anyway. You may choose to go to a bookstore to look something up or look it up on the internet. You may eventually decide to go to the bookstore coz you couldn't find the info online but that decision has to come solely from you, not because someone on metafilter told you to.
posted by xm at 5:29 PM on July 1, 2010

What are your hobbies and how did you get them?

CG/Visual Effects: Always had an interest in doing stuff like that as a kid, and after Starcraft 1 came out, I was totally hooked on the amazing visuals, and kept doing it for fun. Years later, I'm now working full time doing stuff like this. Hobby becomes a job.

R/C Model Racing: Walked past a race track and thought it was interesting. Signed up on a forum to discuss, and met friends with similar interests. Sadly I've stopped this due to the nature of my work.

Photography: I picked this up whilst racing, one of my mentors was also an avid photographer. I started out just for fun, and ten years later I've found my calling for wildlife/zoo photography. Love it. Almost every weekend I'm out somewhere. This weekend I'm out at Goodwood Festival Of Speed to photograph the race, hillclimbs etc :3

Scale Modelling: I like robots, cars, planes, etc. One of my classmates at school is a hardcore scale modeller and I picked it up from him. Again, due to the nature of my job, I've stopped this.

Life Drawing: I hate drawing, but I've always wanted to learn. I tried again early this year, but this time with a supportive mentor, not books. He introduced me to more people supportive of people who can't draw but want to draw, and I after 6 months of daily drawing, I can see my slow, but steady improvement.

Flute/Piano: Stopped, but I picked it up because I liked the music produced by these instruments, and thought I'd give it a go. Evidently not really my thing, or I need a teacher/mentor. May acquire a saxophone soon, as I love jazz :3

Perhaps what you need is a supportive group to help you out when stuck.

posted by TrinsicWS at 3:49 AM on July 2, 2010

Model Warship Combat:
I daydreamed about battling remote controlled boats for years, thinking it was impossible. (electronics and water? are you nuts?) Then I found these guys: Youtube Link and all of those childhood dreams were brought back.
I've been doing it for a year now, and I can't tell you how much fun it is.
Here's me blathering on about it for 5 minutes at IgniteSLC.
My advice: keeps searching until you think, I've *ALWAYS* wanted to do that!
posted by krieghund at 11:42 AM on July 2, 2010

I'm not that artistic. When I was a teen I enjoyed drawing but I have a huge perfectionist problem that delays me from doing anything since.

Oh, hey, I had this problem with music. To get over it, I started at SongFight! -- where there's a set title and time limit -- and so I figured everything I did was going to suck anyway, so I'd just do my best, submit it, and let it go.

And you know what? Lots of it did suck. A few were good. But just by putting it out there and walking away, and making no excuses for it, I learned to tolerate my own mistakes more.

Someone earlier in the thread suggested using cheap materials to get you into that groove, but also consider a time limit. Start a blog, and make yourself draw something, anything, every day. By 10pm at night, it MUST be scanned and uploaded. Do that, stick with it, and you'll produce prodigious amounts of crap, and some awesome things, too -- and your perfectionist streak will go out the window.
posted by davejay at 1:17 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I take classes at a local woodworking shop, which is fun and social, and do custom woodworking on my own. It's far more satisfying than my day job, and far, far more satisfying in retrospect than most of the time I've spent on the internet.

Basically, it's something social, and something long-term skillbuilding, so in five years, I can look back and say I *did* something that went somewhere, as opposed to just dicking around all the time.
posted by talldean at 6:09 AM on July 4, 2010

I was just reminded of this question today. Oops. So I thought I'd update. I marked a few with good answers that included hobbies I tried and keep up with. I installed a bird feeder out my back porch and watch that daily which proves to be a source of amusement.

Since I've recently taken up walking everyday I look out for birds as well which is sparking interest. I've made it a goal to take one picture when I'm out for each day of something neat I see so that gets me looking up and around and noticing my environment again instead of plodding along.

Also I've resparked my interest in reading and crochet. The purchasing of a Kindle helped the reading now that I can enlarge any and all text size. As well suggestions that I donate my projects helped. I even plan on venturing into granny squares next year and doing a CAL on Ravelry for an afghan.

So those are some of the highlights but thank you all for your answers and kind suggestions.
posted by kanata at 5:50 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Granny squares are fabulous -- a basic granny square is a very simple pattern and is short enough to do at least one maybe a couple in an evening. So it's small (easily transported) and achievable. And if you want to do more complicated ones, there are patterns available.

I'm glad you're finding things that are interesting you. Good luck!
posted by rmd1023 at 5:22 AM on December 7, 2010

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