Happiness is for everyone, even the scientists. But, seldom have we found very happy scientists. We are often consumed by concerns about data, publications, grants, lab politics and job opportunities. Dumbledore says “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” This light could be something as simple as a hobby. I have cultivated several hobbies over the years, such as sketching, philately, numismatics, reading, short story writing, table tennis, cooking, photography, collecting elephant figurines and most recently people watching (what? It is an actual hobby; I’m not making it up). However, my top two favorites have always been cooking and photography. Experimenting with these excite me. Julia Child said, “The art of bread making can become a consuming hobby, and no matter how often and how many kinds of bread one has made, there always seems to be something new to learn.” This probably could be adapted to each and every hobby that one can cultivate. Trying new variations in what we already know is a rewarding experience, especially, if the result turns out to be good.
I can’t emphasize enough how happy you feel when you cook something and people really like it. It gives you a sense of belonging. It humbles you with a feeling that they trust you with something important, like a meal in their day. I feel guilty classifying cooking as a hobby; while actually, it is a necessity. We won’t list bathing or washing clothes as a hobby. But, in my case I use cooking as a hobby. When I’m stressed or depressed with something, I cook. I tend to make elaborate snacks or meals and photograph them. I eat them later, of course. While photographing the food that I and my wife prepare is a major part of my hobby, I don’t limit myself to photographing food. I have not been able to single out a particular genre or style of photography as my favorite. Maybe I just like holding a camera, and since I’m holding it, I must do something with it, Isn’t it? So, as a result, I have dabbled with macro, night, landscapes, wildlife, and other creative techniques.
A clumsy star trail – i did not clean up the satellite/aircraft trails interspersing the star trails. This one is a collage of about 100 images (each shot for 30 sec) stacked over each other.
A light painting. This exercise is more fun if you have a friend/partner who is willing to do such crazy stuff. I and my wife spent over 2 hrs trying a lot of stuff to get this picture right. It is not a stellar image, but it definitely has some happy memories associated with it.
Sun setting on Mt. Hood, a potentially active stratovolcano on the outskirts of Portland. This is an everyday view in the summer, as seen from OHSU campus.
Pacific tree frog – found majorly in the west coast of united states. Mainly nocturnal, known for its colour morphing ability, and a funny mating call (they say “ooh-yeeh” to attract females)
I feel it is really necessary that we take breaks and reset ourselves periodically. It is most certainly necessary for me. These activities take my mind off, albeit for a short while, from the routine stressful rigmarole of lab work. And, when I get back to work, I find myself charged with new enthusiasm. In addition to helping us relax, hobbies bestow several benefits. They promote eustress, help you acquire new skills and discover your hidden talents, provide an opportunity to meet like-minded people, result in constructive time utilization, and they look good on your resume. Above all, they make you happy. So, cultivate a hobby, not because you can show off your talent to people and impress them. Not because they provide an opportunity to meet people and make friends. Do it because it will make you happy. Do it for yourself. If you cannot take care of yourself and keep yourself happy, no one else can. If you already have some hobbies, and they just need resurrection, go do that. Don’t waste your time reading stupid articles like this one. Go…Now!
About the Author
Vikas did his PhD at IISc, and works as a postdoctoral researcher at OHSU, Portland, USA. He has been involved with photography and cooking from his high school days. Apart from tinkering with his camera, and indulging in culinary projects with his wife, he enjoys telling a good story once in a while (not an up-to-date collection of stories, http://musingnavaratna.blogspot.co.uk/).