Found yourself with some extra free-time these days?

Maybe you’ve just retired? Go you! Whatever the reason for your extra time, use your energy for something fruitful. Consider learning a new skill or investigating what makes you happy. For people of any age, picking up hobbies and new skills can reduce stress, connect you with others, and enhance your overall mental health.

Fun with Fido

Whether you have a new puppy or want to teach your old dog new tricks, training your dog is a useful skill that can reap rewards for years to come. Training provides an excellent bonding opportunity for you and your pet. There are several methodologies used in dog training. Dog Time explains the differences between dominance training, positive reinforcement, clicker training, relationship-based training and other methods.

According to InsideDogsWorld, there are 15 key commands you’ll want to teach your pup, including “heel,” “down,” “stay,” and “wait,” but there are others. “Sit” is often the first command dogs learn. Whichever method of training you choose, consistency is key.

Pet Walkers Wanted

Why not make dog walking your new hobby? No hard skills are required — you just need the ability to wrangle a dog and scoop the poop. In fact, according to IBIS World, it’s a $1 billion industry and growing. Pet ownership is at an all-time high, which means working folks need their dogs tended to.

If you live in a larger city, there are plenty of opportunities to sign up as a dog walker. Bring Fido offers a comprehensive directory of pet sitters and dog walkers in the United States. Sign up for one near you, or post to your neighborhood boards, and get to walking. You’ll make a couple of extra dollars while shedding pounds. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a dog lover who didn’t proclaim that pups are great for reducing stress and anxiety and improving our social and emotional functioning.

Play an Instrument

There are seemingly infinite benefits from learning to play an instrument. The simple act of strumming a guitar, picking a fiddle, or tapping drums has been known to reduce stress, build confidence, improve memory, and give you a creative boost. “People of any age can learn to play and [gain] a level of satisfaction,” says Roy Ernst, professor emeritus at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Ernst founded New Horizons, a program that encourages adults to “play musical instruments or sing, and to join bands, orchestras or choral groups.” The internet also offers hours of instruction.

Learn to Practice Yoga

Practicing yoga has a unique ability to foster health and promote longevity by increasing muscle tone, flexibility, and balance. It also helps with increased lung capacity, promotes posture improvement, and may even help you sleep better. “Yoga is a journey that helps you learn more about your body, your heart and your mind,” offers Mind Body Green. Take it easy on yourself; there’s no need to be a push to be pretzel. Embrace being a novice and avoid comparing yourself to others in the room. Listen to your body and do what feels good. There are different types of yoga, so a little studying might prove helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed about starting. Basically, there is a class for everyone at every age at any skill level. And best of all, you can start your practice in the comfort of your own home.

Convert your Hobby into a Business

Many hobbyists are looking to put their business savvy into converting part-time hobbies into full-time revenue. If your personal and professional goals align, you could have the ultimate career doing what you love. The starting point is often researching your market and defining your audience. Once that pencils out, it’s time to review the legal requirements for starting a business in your state.

There are a dozen potential business structures, but one that is very popular with the hobbyist-turned-entrepreneur community is the LLC. Attractive for its tax benefits, security, and ease of set up, there are still a number of steps required to establish a bona fide business. Luckily, a formation service can assist with the process and is substantially less expensive than hiring an attorney.

Learning a new skill and finding what makes you happy in the way of hobbies has far-reaching benefits for your overall well-being. No matter what your age or current skill set, hobbies challenge us to have fun while being better versions of ourselves.

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