Study Is What You Do. Hobbies Are What You Are.

By Steven Galvin - Last update

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Your time at University can be the best years of your life as you discover a whole other world to the one you have lived up until this point in your life – a world of new people, new knowledge, new ideas and new experiences.

However, it can also be a pretty stressful time in a young person’s life as they also face new academic pressures that can be particularly challenging for any student. A Uni Health study found that 80% of students in higher education had symptoms of stress or anxiety, while a NUS survey stated that 90% of students experienced stress.

While it can be difficult to avoid the challenges that cause such symptoms, there are many ways of dealing with them and coping with stress and relieving anxiety. In doing so, you are able to take better control of your mental health and become more equipped to face the challenges that University life can throw in front of you.

One of the most important ways of dealing with stress and relieving anxiety is to ensure that you supplement your studies with hobbies. Having a hobby is a perfect way of both managing and relieving you from the stress-related endeavors that come with studying at third level. Hobbies are a vital means of social engagement, self-expression, creativity, and relaxation, which are all inextricably bound up with positive mental health.

Social Engagement 

Hobbies are a magical way of meeting new people, sharing our passions, and forming new bonds. Studies have shown that social connection is an essential component of happiness and has a positive effect towards a meaningful life. Hobbies facilitate us to spend time with like-minded people with whom we can share ideas and inspiration. This can often lead us to feel better about ourselves and improve our sense of worth as the good we see in others we can reflect back onto ourselves. 


Someone once said to me at college that “Study is what you do. Hobbies are what you are.” Hobbies are a great method of self-expression. Often with academic learning all your activity is geared toward an external object of study and it can be rare to express yourself in the analysis of that object. It is more often that our true passion is reflected in our hobbies – what we choose to fill our spare time with says more about who we are. It’s essential that we engage in those hobbies that are at their essence some of the most powerful and important forms of self-expression.


Many hobbies require you to engage with the creative side of yourself. They often demand improvisation and experimentation and defy routine and ask you to engage with the world in a creative and original way. This expands our brain’s neural networks. This creativity boosts mood and provides moments of pleasure by stimulating the “happy hormone” dopamine. Flexing our creative muscles through our hobbies is a tremendous means of managing our mental well-being.


Finally, hobbies are often associated with relaxation and can be something we look forward to and give us a break from our routine. They can be the perfect antidote to the high-stress of studying and exam-preparation. Hobbies are a terrific way to relax the mind and often allow us to take rest in the unconscious and achieve a state of meditation. From a personal point of view, I often found that the two main hobbies I pursued – swimming and playing guitar – served a meditative role in my life. Both focused my mind on the task at hand but in quite different ways. Swimming emptied my mind, while playing the guitar focused my mind. Both hobbies encouraged its own particular zen-like state of relaxation free from the demands of the conscious mind. Whatever it is, such pleasurable activities enable you to take your mind off of the demands of your daily life or negative vibes therein and allow you to be “in tune” with yourself.

Steven Galvin

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