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How to Start a Hobby

A new activity can bring fresh perspectives, new friends and just plain joy. Here are tips to get you going

spinner image woman smiling while painting in a living room
Getty Images

Is there a hobby you’ve always wanted to try? Why not give it a whirl? Hobbies are a great way to meet new people and provide you with a sense of purpose.

There are health benefits too, including everything from boosting your memory to reducing stress. Doing something you enjoy can even help you live longer.  

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But sometimes the hardest part of a new hobby is getting started. Here are ways to help you get playing, singing, painting or whatever it is you want to try — along with a few stories of people who took that first step to give you a little inspiration.

Let go of expectations

“Perfection is the enemy of progress,” Winston Churchill famously said. And that is true when taking up a hobby as well.

“You’re not going to be able to pick up an instrument and play it the first day you try it, or pick up a paintbrush and instantly paint like van Gogh,” says Andrea Smith, executive director of Senior Action, a nonprofit that offers activities for seniors 55 and up in Greenville, South Carolina. But over time, you’ll get better and better.

Susannah Blinkoff, 59, a recording artist and film/TV writer in Pasadena, California, grew up without any exposure to competitive sports. “By the time I got to high school, everyone had learned all the sports, and I was completely intimidated,” she recalls.

When her son began taking tennis lessons, she realized that maybe she’d rather be “moving around like him rather than just sitting on the sidelines.”

At 50, Susannah signed up for lessons. “It was definitely hard to be a beginner at that age, but now I can look back and see that I’ve come a long way and really improved,” she says.

Today, she plays in USTA matches and tournaments at her local tennis club. “I absolutely love it,” she says. “It keeps me really fit and doesn’t make me feel like I’m working out doing prescribed exercises.”​

Be open to the unexpected

You can look for a hobby but sometimes it’ll find you first. Maybe a friend has taken up a sport and is looking for a partner or maybe someone has some extra art supplies they are looking to offload. Before you say, “That’s not for me,” maybe give it a try.

spinner image Hank Solomon learned how to paint
Hank Solomon took up painting after receiving a paint set as a gift. Before you disregard a possible new hobby, says Solomon, maybe give it a try.​​
Hank Solomon

Just before the pandemic, 85-year-old Hank Solomon and his wife moved into a senior living community in Aventura, Florida. When the community gave its residents painting kits, Solomon initially turned up his nose at the idea of painting, a hobby he’s never taken to before.

“I immediately placed it away in my drawer, disinterested,” says Solomon. “Until several months later, during a quiet moment, I just decided to give it a try. I surprised myself.”

Solomon says he never would have imagined learning to paint in his 80s and now can’t imagine life without it. “Painting has really improved the quality of my days,” he reveals. “I now see things from a different perspective, including colors.”

spinner image Martin Stein barrel racing while on a horse
A lifelong fan of cowboys, Martin Stein had always wanted to learn how to ride horses. Now he’s a regular cowboy. ​
Martin Stein

Use nostalgia to find what you love

As kids, we learn what are good and not-so-good activities from our family and peers. But sometimes those “bad ideas” might be worthy of your time.

Martin Stein, a 58-year-old in Corinth, Texas, grew up loving horses and cowboys but was discouraged from pursuing riding.

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“A few years ago, my wife and I moved to Texas and I found myself down the road from a stable,” he says. Stein took lessons and began competing in amateur competitions, racing against people his age who have been on horseback all their lives. He placed first in his age category his very first year of getting into the sport.

Not only has Stein fulfilled a lifelong wish, he says, but his new hobby took him places he never thought of. He joined a cowboy church — one that combines Christian worship with cowboy culture — with folks he met at the play days.

“I’ve even joined the church’s horseback drill team, rode in parades and worked the chutes at team roping events,” he says.

spinner image Mark Grossman performs at a comedy club
For Mark Grossman, stand-up comedy is the hobby he’d been looking for. There is nothing better than making people laugh, he says. ​
Mark Grossman

Sign up for a class

“For instance, if you’re like, ‘I’ve always wanted to learn how to paint,’ find a class or a program that teaches you that skill or helps you with what supplies you might need,” says Senior Action’s Smith.

For Mark Grossman, 66, that place was a comedy club.

About five years ago Grossman was on a Tinder date when his date told him about a comedy class she took. “She seemed an unlikely person to do stand-up comedy — she was reserved and somewhat introverted. But when she spoke about the class, she spoke with such enthusiasm that I was intrigued.”

The next day, Grossman signed up for a class. He loved it so much, he took it twice, began participating in open mic nights and has even picked up some paid gigs.

“As someone who has battled stuttering my whole life and avoided public speaking back in my school days, just the fact that I can get up on stage in front of people and speak is an accomplishment,” he says.

Grossman says there is no better feeling than making people laugh.

Look to the great outdoors

A new hobby can take you new places — including outside.

Last year, David Tooke, 57, of Austin, Texas, saw people fishing from kayaks in his local lake.

He had fished in the past, from the shore, with limited success and became intrigued by the idea of getting out onto the lake, closer to the fish. “I read all about it and watched a few YouTube videos, then I bought an inflatable kayak and started,” he says. Now, Took goes out kayak fishing several days a week.

His biggest catch to date is an 8 pound bass. “It is enjoyable to be outside paddling on a lake, being with nature and seeing wildlife,” says Tooke. “It is like a game trying to catch the big old bass.”

Find a furry — or not so furry — friend

Time with a pet dog or cat is as good a hobby as any. But what about engaging with other kinds of animals? Even the not cuddly kind.

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins, a 69-year-old resident of Rolla, Missouri, had always wanted to get into beekeeping but had been putting it off due to her busy work schedule. One winter, she saw an ad from someone selling bees locally and ordered two hives.

“Initially I thought I would get one hive, place it in the garden corner and leave them to it,” she says. “I didn’t count on falling in love, wanting to see bees daily up close and learning everything I could about them.”

Wiggins has met a range of fascinating people through her beekeeping hobby and has even started teaching beginning beekeeping classes and writing beekeeping books to help others get started.

spinner image Jo and Don Carson practice the Ukulele
Starting to play the ukulele has expanded Jo and Don Carson’s friend network and it’s something they can do together. ​
Jo and Don Carson

Try a new hobby with a friend or loved one 

Greenville, South Carolina, resident Jo Carson and her husband Don, both 86, joined the Ukulele Ensemble at Senior Action three years ago, with no prior experience, “... and we’re still playing,” says Jo.

Playing the ukulele, Don says, has enriched their lives and helped them to learn a new skill. “Before this, neither one of us had ever attempted to play a stringed musical instrument before,” he says.

And while they started the hobby as a team of two, Jo says they have made loads of friends that share their passion.

An added bonus: Making or listening to music has amazing health benefits for the brain, according to an AARP report.

Connect with people in person or online

And if you can’t find a friend to try it with you, look for people or groups already engaged in that hobby.

“There’s a Facebook group for everything these days, whether it’s photography or crocheting,” says Smith. “Sometimes that can encourage you to get involved in that hobby, because you find other people who are talking about it, and are sharing their tips and tricks.”

And those people might be closer than you think. After his son started taking classes, Kalani Matthews, 54, of Chantilly, Virginia, began training in Brazilian jujitsu and became a high-level competitor in less than a year.

“Watching him train and apply the mental principles of jujitsu inspired me to start,” he says. “Also, it looked like a lot of fun.” The training, he says, has increased his flexibility and mobility, improved the function of his heart and lungs and reduced his body fat. “I have better circulation, more energy and feel better overall,” says Matthews.

He’s also made a bunch of new friends in the process. “What I love most about the sport is that everyone who I have met in the gym and at competition events shares the same passion for the sport,” he says.

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