Accessible Hobbies for People in Pain
Tis the season to find joy. But when you are in pain, joy is hard to find because things you enjoy doing are difficult to do. Snowboarding, running, hiking, biking, sewing, or other activities of enjoyment might not be well tolerated any longer. Without a good hobby, it is easy to feel depressed, helpless and hopeless. Before slipping down into that abyss, try to find something different that you can do with less pain and more joy.
For the adrenaline junkie who really misses racing around on the motorbike, doing 360s in the half-pipe, or climbing up a sheer cliff, there are alternative hobbies of enjoyment with less risk and less pain, yet still provide a burst of adrenaline. Have you tried flying a helicopter lately? A remote control helicopter provides the challenge and the thrill that you may be missing in your life. Even the remote control cars and airplanes are much faster and more sophisticated than in years past. How about the latest gaming technology? You could turn your living room into an exciting virtual battlefield or spy game. These toys and games exercise your brain in different ways and bathe your brain in the chemical you seek, adrenaline.
Speaking of bathing the brain in chemicals, hobbies of enjoyment really do bathe the brain in the chemicals of pleasure like serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. These messengers of pleasure and joy can counterbalance the overwhelming amount of messages about pain, anxiety and depression in the brain. So even if you do not seek adrenaline, you should still try to find joy and pleasure. So what are other accessible hobbies that you might want to consider?
For those who need not only joy but a way to relax, some hobbies can provide a comforting combination of repetition, skill and accomplishment. One hobby that seems very easy for people in pain to do, if done at a reasonable pace, is knitting. The repetition of throwing stitches is a form of meditation that evokes a relaxation response. The skills necessary to create items like scarves, hats, throws, and mittens stimulates and distracts the brain. The pleasure of finishing an item you created will also give you a great sense of accomplishment. And let us not forget the joy of giving away something you made.
For those who need a joyful way to escape, the digital age has many options for those who enjoy reading but have a hard time holding onto a book. Lightweight readers like the Kindle or iPad can be wonderful tools that can help someone return to the hobby of reading. Even audiobooks can be listened to on these devices. A good story is a great way to experience joy.
If your life is lacking the experiences that provide joy, pleasure and happiness, try exploring new hobbies that can substitute for the ones you can no longer do. An accessible hobby might be one that brings back childhood memories of games and toys. An accessible hobby might be one that requires a new skill but can be just as relaxing as meditating. Even old favorite activities can be made more accessible using new technology. The creative, curious energy provided by a hobby of enjoyment helps to counteract the negativity surrounding a painful experience and can help you be more resilient and optimistic. Exploring the possibilities and rediscovering joy can help you live with pain.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.