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Hobby Your Way to Happiness

An Oakland-based author says pleasurable pastimes are a great way to get a life



FEELING stressed out and unhappy? Maybe it’s time to take up sewing, seed trading, or scuba diving. That’s what Tina Barseghian, an Oakland mom and contributing editor to the do-it-yourself bible ReadyMade magazine, would recommend. Diablo chatted with Barseghian, 36, about her new book, Get a Hobby, in which she introduces readers to 101 hobbies—from African violet cultivation to whittling.

In Get a Hobby’s foreword, Dr. Miguel Figueroa writes, “Get a hobby now: It could save your life.” Is he correct?
Engaging in a hobby can decrease your level of stress and anxiety, which have been proven to be the source of all kinds of ailments, like high blood pressure and a general sense of being unsatisfied. When you are engaging in a hobby—doing something purely for the joy of it without worrying about the result—you relax. The various hobbyists I interviewed in the book—the knitter, the calligrapher, the origami artist—all talked about losing themselves in the task, being unaware of anything else while they were engaging in the hobby and having unadulterated fun.

Courtesy of HarperCollins

How do you know what hobby to choose?
The way you can assess what hobby is right for you is by taking the quiz in the front of the book, which charts your interests and gives you a hobby personality. Then, when you go through the book, those characteristics are listed for each hobby. So, for example, someone interested in spelunking tends to be adventurous, independent, and nature loving. A balsa wood sculptor would be artistic, dexterous, and patient.
Did you pick up any of these hobbies yourself after you researched them?

Yes, of course! Paint by numbers—I was totally into that. Polaroid transfers. Furniture restoration. I kept a bonsai tree for a while.
Who were the weirdest, er, most original hobbyists you came across?
There were a lot. The guy with the taxidermy zoo in his house was up there. There are some really amazing hobby websites out there. There’s a whole group of adults who are into Legos, including a man who builds elaborate dioramas of biblical stories. His website is www.thebricktestament.com . You have to see it to believe it.
This book and ReadyMade magazine tap into the do-it-yourself craze. Why has this become such a cultural juggernaut over the past few years?
The DIY craze is about people stating their identity—wanting to put their own stamp of creativity and character on the things they wear and the things they have in their home. It’s become so mainstream that I’ve noticed stores like Gap and Target, these huge icons of mass consumerism, are selling clothes that look like they are hand-picked at the thrift store or individually silk-screened.
Each hobby is summed up in two pages in your book, but it seems like some of these hobbies could have their own books.
I was not trying to be the Martha Stewart of minutiae and give every little step. The idea was to give a digestible overview of the hobby, the resources and websites you need to get started.
Many of our readers are busy moms. Should they pick a hobby that involves kids?
They could, but I don’t think that this is the definition of a hobby. I like going to flea markets, and I bring my daughter along. Same with gardening. But at the end of the day, your hobby should be just for you. Any time you spend away from your child and family duties can be seen as selfish, but I think it’s a false way of describing that time. When you find an activity that you love to do, you should be able to carve out a few hours on a Sunday afternoon with absolutely no guilt.
Ultimately, what do you hope readers will take from Get a Hobby?
I hope that people will find something that they enjoy doing for themselves, even if it’s not in the book. And I hope the book is a fun read—that people will learn about a subject they didn’t know about.
And that, perhaps, they will have fewer heart attacks?
Get a Hobby! (HarperCollins, $19.95) is available in local bookstores. Go to www.diablomag.com to take the assessment quiz—and choose your own hobby.

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