Happy Monday!

We’re in our first full week of phase one here in North Carolina. Not much has changed, as we are technically still advised to stay home as much as possible, but one thing has changed here at Solutions for Independence: we’re all back in the office. If you didn’t know, we’ve been working remotely since March 24th, which has been a real adjustment. However, after assessing our office space and our need to remain socially distant, our board has agreed that we are able to return to work full time. With only four of us in the building, it’s easy to keep each other safe, but it’s good to see each other’s (masked) faces all the same.

For anyone still at home, this quarantine might feel like it will never end. Even for those of us who are still out there, working as safely as we can, the differences in how we live our daily lives weighs on us. While we were working shorter hours from home, I tried to spend time everyday doing something creative. I’m fortunate not to have lost too much dexterity from carpal tunnel (yet), and I threw myself into small sewing projects. I’m not a great seamstress, especially since I don’t own a sewing machine, and my stitches aren’t especially beautiful. But the time I spent sewing together bits of fabric into face masks, heating pads, or an admittedly too-ambitious purse organizer was still time well spent. Hobbies are good for us, and they don’t have to be big, expensive, or even things we’re particularly good at to make a huge difference to our mood and overall well-being.

There’s a wonderful article from The New York Times, printed in March, called “The Big Impact of a Small Hobby,” in which the author describes the self-soothing benefits of the simple line drawings he creates, mainly of his dish rack.

Almost any hobby or act of leisure helps [improve health and mood]. A 2013 study at Pennsylvania State University found that gardening, sewing, completing puzzles and other relaxing activities lowered blood pressure. A 2015 study at the University of Merced revealed that individuals who engaged in leisure reported improved moods and less stress and exhibited lower heart rates.

What matters is how we engaged we are in the activities. “The thing that came out in the studies was this: ‘How much are you able to get outside of your head?’” Matthew J. Zawadzki, the lead author of the studies, said.

[…] Dr. Zawadzki has a tip that evokes the medical value of a hobby. “Write yourself a prescription that says, ‘I’m going to take 10 minutes, three times a week. That is my time,’” he suggested. “When we come back from doing leisure, we’re often re-engaged, we’re better able to concentrate and we’re in a better mood, so the first thing is to give yourself permission to do it.”

What do you like to do to relax? Can you take time to do it today?