When you run out of ideas…. just go back to an old one
How taking up an old hobby can help you through difficult times
When I think back to my childhood in Hungary, I am very grateful to our parents and grandparents as they taught us so many life skills: from growing vegetables, fixing furniture, feeding animals to washing, ironing, folding my clothes, knitting and embroidery. At that time though I did not realise how important these would be later. Some of these I continue doing with great pride and keep their legacy alive and others I forgot, or at least I thought I did. But things we once loved have a funny way of coming back to our life, just when we most need them.
I quite enjoyed doing traditional embroidery in my late teens/ early twenties, I had better luck with it than knitting or crocheting, then moved onto other things… until over twenty years later. I was going through very difficult times after my breakup, kept to myself, did not want to be around people, especially not happy couples. I wanted to deal with it on my own, but it was not easy. Looking back, I now know I should reached out to someone, find a coach or a therapist. I was struggling to keep my mind occupied and have tired of box sets and endless candy crush levels.
What else is there?
Luckily my sister challenged me to try something I used to enjoy doing, and suddenly I remembered: Embroidery! Soon I got everything I needed from back home in Hungary (my mum had kept everything as she used to do it as well. The good old days when these traditions used to be passed down through generations.) including tablecloths with the patterns and started with small pieces. It was like riding a bicycle – you can never forget it. Everything came back, the techniques and the love of doing the pieces. I did find it very relaxing and helped me stay calm and focused, it needed patience, precision and perseverance. I must admit I brought in some creativity too with the colours (those experts in this style of embroidery might point this out for sure).
But it was much more than just the embroidery, I strongly believe what also helped me is remembering my grandparents, thinking of how much they meant to me and how much they would want me to be ok again. This gave me strength and helped me along a journey of recovery. Every piece I have made I gave to friends and family over the years, I felt I had to pay it forward and give my support and show them how much they mean to me. These pieces will live on and carry my own legacy and family traditions. Grandma, I hope I have made you proud!
Sometimes we find help in the most unexpected places. When we think we have run out of ideas, something or someone turns up: a hobby we used to enjoy, a book on the shelf, a social media post with a quote or a picture, a movie we watch, a call or message from a friend or family, a place we cherish, a smell or a taste that can make the difference.
A few years ago, my closest friend was over the moon that she got hold of a bottle of Naomagic perfume for me – one that I used to love but it was discontinued ages ago. When I smelt it, I could not believe it that I felt I was taken back in time to my twenties, all the feelings came rushing back: being at home, feeling young, happy and carefree. Or when my sister and I go to the Hungarian shop or Patisserie once in while for a bit of “taste of home” – that first bite you take of a traditional cake, favourite chocolate from our childhood or sit down to a homecooked traditional Hungarian meal… can be so healing and energising at the same time. During the lockdown another dear friend of mine set up a virtual book club – I was not sure about joining to be honest but wanted to support my friend and it actually turned out to be a great experience, it brought back my love of reading for fun not just for work and have met some great people and have learnt so much.
Can taking up old hobbies improve your mental health?
There is evidence that proves the benefits of taking up old hobbies and its impact on our wellbeing – Ciara McCabe, Associate Professor, Neuroscience from University of Reading published a very interesting article on the topic earlier this year: “The science behind why hobbies can improve our mental health” ( The Conversation, 2021)
When we are ready to make positive changes in our lives, we attract whatever we need to help us.Louise Hay
I certainly hope my creations will be there to make others smile, bring back happy memories or give others strength when they think about how much they mean to me. They are part of my legacy and in decades to come, others will look at them with admiration, curiosity, and gratitude. Going back to something old is not always the answer, sometimes we have to try new things – and will cover this in a later blog. Just don’t forget, at times the best we can do is look back and appreciate who we are, dip into what we are good at and take strength from where we came from.