The harder we work, the more we need downtime to recharge so we can keep up the pace. Modern life can feel like the Indy 500, forcing us to switch gears at breakneck speeds, trying to avoid the walls  and not get smashed by the racers whizzing by. Constant multitasking, juggling competing responsibilities and managing multiple agendas exact a harsh toll on our mental and physical health. That’s where our hobbies come to the rescue.

What we do with our time when we are off the clock from work and off the grid from social and family obligations can serve a dual purpose. We can sink into the gratifying escapism of TV or Netflix, socialize over happy hour burgers and brews or we can indulge in productive pastimes that add to our bank account, take our sexiness up a notch, decrease our stress or make our lives more gratifying. Do you prefer hobbies that add to your financial bottom line and not your waistline? If so, check these productive hobbies that make the most out of your leisure time.

Hobbies that can make or save you money

When money is tight it can be tough to scrounge for extra cash for pleasurable pursuits. These hobbies can actually pay for themselves with the money you save, or make.

  1. Coaching club sports. Coaching league sports, like volleyball or soccer, can turn your sports fanaticism into a paycheck and a good time. Coach your kid’s team and you get the bonus of some quality bonding time.And if you’re childless, coaching a team of youngsters or teens can remind you why you don’t have any!
  1. Buy, sell, and trade on Craigslist or Ebay. Many sellers make a decent part-time, and even full-time, living by selling items cluttering up the garage and closet or purchasing goods from yard sales, collectors and swap meets and selling directly to consumers online.
  1. Cooking. No, cooking is not a “women’s thing”. Both genders eat at least three times a day, making food preparation a human thing. The majority of celebrity chefs, think Gordon Ramsey, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, are testosterone powerhouses. Cooking saves you money in a few ways: cooking a homemade meal makes a cheap date, you save on all the cash you blow eating out, and eating at home is generally healthier, so you save on buying bigger clothes and blood pressure meds. Extra perk: when you cook you always eat well.
  1. Home Improvement. The DIY movement is exploding for one main reason: when you do your own home improvements you can get customized results and save money. More satisfying results for less dough, that’s a no brainer.
  1. Gardening. Being cooped up in a cubicle like a monkey in a cage all week makes getting outside a breath of fresh air. When you garden you have something tangible, and tasty, to show for the time you spend basking in the sunshine. Save money and eat better, what’s not to like?
  1. Playing an instrument. If music moves you, you can give lessons or play your neighborhood lounge or dive bar in exchange for a drink and food tab. If entertaining gets your endorphins flowing, you can hire yourself out for private events and public performances.

Hobbies that release stress and improve your mood

Stress is a killer, literally (I go into more depth on how to manage stress in this article.) These hobbies do double duty by increasing your overall wellness while you indulge in much needed “me time”.  Heal your body from the abuses of stress and have a kick ass time doing it—talk about a win-win.

  1. Hiking. A cost effective get away, hiking brings an inner calm that can only come from connecting with nature. It’s a great way to bond with friends, get closer with someone special or enjoy some solitude. Check out trails.com to find trails in your area.
  1. Martial Arts. Learning self-defense is only one of the benefits of practicing martial arts. Self-discipline, focus, fitness, coordination, self-respect, stress relief, and a Zen-like ability to take on whatever life throws your way with flexibility and finesse are some of the traits martial artists acquire by studying the ancient warrior tradition. If you do some research to find the discipline and instructor that’s right for you, martial arts can transform your body, mind and even your life.
  1. Running or playing a sport. Physical activity boosts your testosterone level, keeps you healthy and strong, staves off depression, and soothes your stress. Whether it’s pick-up basketball games at the gym, the company softball team, soccer with the boys on the weekends, or an evening run, consistent exercise makes you feel good (it’s those endorphins), look better and gives you an outlet for that competitive drive and excess anxiety.
  1. Fishing. For the price of a pole, some bait and maybe a fishing license, you can supply your own dinner while soaking in the freshness and beauty of the Outdoors.  If you’re looking for a way to spend more time with your kids, fishing is a classic American father-son (and father-daughter) tradition. Fishing is one of the most relaxing of productive pastimes—it fosters patience, puts you in tune with the rhythm of Nature and allows you to temporarily escape the pressures of urban living.
  1. PaintballIf you crave a hobby that can channel your aggression and competitive spirit, then paintball might be the answer. You can drop $30 and rent a gun, CO2 cartridge, safety mask, and enough ammo to last you most of the day at a paintball course. After that, it’s only the facility fee and you’re in for a let-loose, go- crazy, time. An exercise for your body, mind and teamwork skills, paintball is a total tactical workout.
  1. Bowling. From Fred Flintstone to Dan Conner to the Dude, bowling is the symbol of the American family man’s weekend hobby.  If sitting down and having a few sips of beer between physical exertions is your speed, than bowling can be an ideal way to get your social needs met, release that pent up stress and work in some physical activity while you do it.
  1. Volunteering. Few things fill your spirit and widen your perspective like giving of yourself to help those plagued by tragedy and hardship. It doesn’t cost anything to volunteer at a local community organization or non-profit, but it often grants riches in the form of wisdom, compassion, gratitude and an increased feeling of happiness with your own life.

Hobbies that make you smarter

A recent study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology suggests time spent enjoying a hobby can dramatically increase career productivity. It seems the cliché “work hard, play hard” has some basis in scientific fact. As humans we require balance to continually operate at peak levels.

Your mind is like a muscle in that to keep it in tip top shape, you have to condition it. Think of these hobbies as sharpeners and your brain as a stainless steel blade; by engaging in these activities you are keeping your mind razor-sharp.

  1. Playing Chess. Chess fine tunes concentration, critical thinking, abstract reasoning, and problem solving skills. If you want to strategize better in life, practice on the chess board. Need an opponent? Try chess.com.
  1. Watching documentaries. Netflix makes finding the best documentaries affordable and convenient. They even offer your first month free of charge.
  1. Listening to podcasts or audiobooks. Get informed, be entertained and increase your knowledge while driving, relaxing at home, or just about anywhere.  Score Free ebooks and free audiobooks with these links.
  1. Brain Games. Train your mind with interactive gaming that improves cognitive functioning.  Luminosity, Cambridge Brain Sciences, and Brainworkshop are sites with games that train your brain to process information faster and function at a higher level.

Hobbies that attract women

  1. Anything Physical Fitness. Bottom line: when you are in better shape you look more attractive, exude confidence, have more energy, and are less cranky and irritable. Now that is sexy!
  1. Dancing. Ballroom dancing, (Salsa, tango and swing are three of the most popular) can boost your self-confidence, posture and cardio fitness. It’s also a fun way to increase flexibility, concentration and coordination. And of course, ladies dig a gentleman who knows how to move.
  1. Dogs and other animals. While a pet is more than just a hobby, walking, cuddling and playing with your dog or other furry friend reaps huge returns.  Dog-walking and playing fetch are good ways to get some cardio exercise, connect with other pet-lovers (especially the friendly, female type), lower stress and stave off depression. Bonus: Women swoon when they see cuddly fur balls and when they see a man with a puppy the adorableness factor multiplies! If you don’t have the lifestyle or resources to give a pet a nurturing home, try finding a friend or neighbor who will let you take theirs out and enjoy the perks.
  1. Writing. Writing is an outlet for everyday frustrations and a channel for self-expression and creativity. And we all know that women love a man who can communicate. Write for 20-30 minutes a day in a journal, a blog, a comic book, whatever genre of storytelling suits you. You will begin to more clearly organize your thoughts and communicate your feelings and ideas. There are few things as sexy as a man who knows how to express himself. Looking to make a huge impression? Channel this new found writing skill into a song, poem or love letter and watch her reaction.

When we were younger and time was the only commodity we had to spend, we would sit in front of the TV playing video games, watching hours of mind-numbing content, reading comic books or novels, or riding our bikes around the neighborhood until the street lamps started to glow. There’s nothing wrong with some self-indulgence after a hard day of grinding to pay the bills and handle responsibilities, but as we age, the more careful we become with our time. We have less of it now so we value it so much more. Why not try and blend our leisure time with practical hobbies that can improve our lives?

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