Starting A Hobby Supercharges Brain Cells

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Starting A Hobby Supercharges Brain Cells
Hobbies leave a profound positive effect on our brains.

Work. Work. Work. 

It's easy to become a wheel-spinning hamster. 

And when it stops, to do nothing at all — become a couch-sitting hamster (if that's a thing). Nothing wrong with that, occasionally. But picking up a hobby is also a good idea — for a number of reasons. First, the psychological benefits, thanks to Psychology Today. 

They include: 

Structuring time. Adding commitments to free time — let's say a 7 p.m. pottery class — can add structure and bolster time efficiency. They always say, "If you want something done, ask a busy person." 

Losing yourself. Plunging so deeply into a task that everything else leaves your consciousness for a while. A hobby that pushes the limits of your skills can do that. And it’s rejuvenating.

Stress relief: In overwhelming moments, a hobby reminds us there's more to life than work. You also are a knitter, a golfer, a gardener, a painter. A bad stretch at work is not as bad when you have rewarding activities to fall back on. 

And let's not forget that hobbies can lead to social connections and make us more interesting. Meanwhile, deep in your brain, this is what developing a new skills looks like, getting more efficient — and bigger. A new skill fires up neurons in the brain and generates new connections. Think of those connections as being new pipelines for moving information, and more pipelines mean more brain volume. That results in more cognitive reserve. The overall benefit: You end up being able to learn things more quickly, and that reserve can help push back the effects of aging.

On a deeper, cellular level, learning a new skill increases the amount of myelin in the brain. That's the white matter, and it consists of protein and fatty substances

Myelin forms a sheath around a section of a brain cell (think of it as insulation), which prevents electrical signals from leaking at the wrong place and wrong time. It also gives the signal more zip, meaning your brain can do more and do it quicker.

With all that in mind, get started on some woodworking or microbrewing or whatever interests you. Stopping the hamster wheel from spinning could give your brain the jolt it needs.