Make Time for Passion Projects: The Mental Health of Enjoyment
We welcome writer and radio presenter, Jake Moran to our Keep Real Club! Here, Jake writes about making the time for passion projects and how that supports our wellbeing.
We all have passions in life- something that makes our heads tick and our hearts boom. But the trouble is, with so much going on in our lives, how do we find the time in our hectic schedules to knuckle down and focus on an activity that we’re passionate about? In this article, I’m going to show you how you can do just this and demonstrate the immense benefits of making time for passion projects. Not only is it a scientifically proven benefit to your mental health- a mental health Yakult if you like- it’s also massively rewarding for your personality and even career. Read on to find out how.
First of all, to make this possibility a reality, let’s find time in your life to actually do a passion project. This part is all about boundaries. How long a day should I spend on my project? Should I do it every day, every week or less? How long will it take to complete, if at all? What time of day should I do it? Depending on your project and its size, these questions may mean you take five minutes, an hour or a few out of every morning. Maybe one weekend every month or even just do it once a year. Set this as a rule in your schedule and stick to it.
Of course, this will depend on what your project is, and how much time it will take to do, so here are some suggestions. One of the least time consuming (per session), and most rewarding passion project is learning a language. I have been learning Swedish on the app Duolingo in roughly fifteen-minute digests every morning for the last three years and I can now speak a fairly decent level of conversational Svenska! Learning a language can be done in short episodes very frequently and it also improves your cognitive ability.
Other bigger projects could be learning an instrument- it’s never too late to start! Or if you love travelling and seeing new things, planning/saving for a huge once-a-year adventure could be your thing! Perhaps you love reading, or writing? Set yourself one morning, afternoon or even a whole day in each week of cosying up and turning some pages. Maybe you’re a musician who hasn’t played for a while? Set yourself the goal of playing the open mic night at the pub every week. And as to fit these into your schedule, clear everything else out of the way for each time in your schedule that you dive into your passion. It’s your project: make time for yourself.
Now, if you’re reading this and you’re thinking ‘my mental health is great at the moment, I don’t need to do something to make my mind off anything’, then let me explain why passion projects aren’t just important for aiding mental health struggles. Passion projects are like vitamin supplements. You wouldn’t take vitamin supplements only while you have a cold, would you? You take them to avoid succumbing to illness. And healthy mental health habits like pursuing passion projects are exactly the same: they work for your mental health regardless whether your mind is content or struggling.
Furthermore, creative projects are particularly beneficial. Creativity improves the connectivity between all parts of your brain and its capacity for learning by creating new neurons as a result of increased levels of dopamine. Stress relief, emotional resilience and even help dealing with PTSD have been proven benefits of doing creative work. Of course, I’m not suggesting that writing songs, painting a picture or taking photographs will cure any mental health problems you’re struggling with, but it will certainly help. And if your mental health is largely sound, then regularly engaging in some creative energy will help build up your resilience and ability to deal with bouts of mental struggle.
Lastly, passion projects don’t just build up your mind. They build up your personality and even your CV! Imagine all the new stuff you’ll be able to talk about when you’ve read that book that’s been on your shelf for ages, can order at the restaurant in French, tell everyone where you’re flying to on your next walking holiday or drop that new song you’ve written this week. New interests and passions don’t just spice up your own life but everyone else’s too! Plus, employers love job applicants who can demonstrate wide ranging interests, skills and a passion for learning.
I know it’s not always easy to find the motivation, energy and time to do something different in life. Especially when you’re juggling work, family, friends, shopping, chores and the rest of life’s load throughout every- seemingly long- week. Often, we just can’t summon the strength to sit through another piano lesson or book chapter after the day’s shenanigans. That is why I recommend clearing a specific time of the day (or during whatever time frame you’re taking up your project), so that you know well in advance and it won’t be an unexpected beckoning of energy and focus when you sit down to do it.
Whatever you decide to do, this will be time for you. Just for you. Make that commitment to yourself and your mental health and you will feel the benefits. Mental health is just like physical health, you’ve got to keep it working to stay in shape.