Sunday, 18 November 2012

Hobbies: Do you have one?

As a psychiatrist, I often ask my patients about the things that they like to do, such as their hobbies. This can help us identify any changes in their interests towards things and gives us an indication about their mood.

The only problem about hobbies is that many Singaporeans don't have one! Patients would often tell me that Singapore is so stressful and "how to afford" a hobby in their busy schedule.

Some may think, "Is that possible, someone without an interest??!!"

When I first started out with my practice, I too often thought that patients who told me that they do not have hobbies were just having me on. Later, I found out that there were indeed a group of Singaporeans with no hobbies. They work from Monday to Saturday, rest at home on Sunday and go back to work again on Monday. They may sit in front of the television, but may not watching the shows at all. At best, they will sit on their usual seats in the corner of their HDB flats reading Wan Bao.

These are people from the babyboomers generation. Hard working and responsible, what life means to them is simply work and to provide for the family. These are great virtues in an Asian society. A man's worth is measured by his work and contribution to society.

But the problem arises when one day, the individual has to retire and many baby boomers have reached or are reaching this age. Suddenly, he is without a job. Suddenly, he is no longer useful. The day after retiring from his job, he is not only without a job but without any aim or meaning in his life.

It is no wonder that many of these people would become depressed. Sometimes, they may not recognise or refuse to admit their difficulties in their emotions and these may manifest as physical symptoms such as headaches, body weakness, chronic pain and giddiness. Severe cases become suicidal. Not having a job is an important risk factor for suicide.

All these because of (the lack of) a hobby?

Perhaps preparing for one's retirement is the more pertinent issue. You may be the most successful Head of Department but that does not equip you with the skills to live life upon retirement; unless you become an avid golfer. Retirement needs to be planned. One needs to slowly prepare and change his mindset and find new meaning of life beyond the present work.

And hobbies are a great way to do so.

Doing fun things and things you find interesting helps you to relax and relieve you of the stress of work. Upon retirement, you have something to look forward to; something you can put your focus and energy on. Hobbies need not be frivolous fun, they can be journeys of learning and can sometimes become a second career!

So it not about how you can afford to have a hobby. It is about how you cannot afford to live without one.