To Be Happier at Work, Get a Hobby

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Photo: Hemant Mehta/Getty Images/Canopy

All but the luckiest among us, at some point during their careers, will have at least one job that’s not so great, or even straight-up bad. If that’s the case, there are a handful of coping strategies that can make a miserable professional situation a little less so: You can celebrate your achievements with little pep talks each day. You can get yourself a work best friend. You can do some mental reorganizing — what psychologists call “cognitive crafting” — and try framing your role in more appealing terms. You can, obviously, try finding a new job.

Or, as writer Phyllis Korkki recently argued in Quartz, you can try something that has nothing to do with work at all: One of the most effective ways to be happier at your job, she wrote, is to find a hobby outside of it. Start a blog, or take up knitting, or get really, really good in the kitchen; the specifics of the activity matter less than the fact that you enjoy it. “These kinds of projects can inject a dose of creativity into the way you approach your day job — and just plain make you happier and more fun to be around,” she wrote.

More importantly, a side hustle also helps you keep an identity that’s separate from what’s on your business card. “People who stake all their identity on their day jobs can be devastated, not just financially but psychologically, if they are suddenly fired or laid off,” she wrote. Even when job security’s not an issue, it can be healthy to have somewhere else to devote your energy: “It’s a way to say: I’m not only an accountant; I’m also a cartoonist. I’m not just a software engineer; I also make furniture. I don’t just write jingles for commercials; I’m also the lead singer of a heavy metal band.”

In other words, diversify how you spend your time, and you’ll grow the number of things in your life that can bring you enjoyment. Chris Guillebeau, author of Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do, told Korkki that so-called “occupational purity” is overrated — sometimes, your job won’t be the thing that makes you happy, and maybe that’s okay. Better to get happiness wherever you can find it, even if that happens to be far, far away from your desk.