"Was on, wax off. Wax on, wax off." When Mr. Miagi, the sensei in the movie "The Karate Kid", had his student Daniel wax cars to prepare him for karate matches, he not only was giving him a physical exercise, but also a mental one. When competing, a karate student must be completely focused on the task at hand. Furthermore, as Julia Cameron says, losing yourself in a task can be a rewarding experience , enhancing the "artist brain". When you do something like wax the car, you become so absorbed in it, you almost go into a trance-like state. You forget about your surroundings, your forget about the past, you forget about the future, and you focus completely on the present. Julia Cameron says that because your mind is so focussed, it is at this point that your creativity peaks.
The same could be said of activities like gardening, knitting, drawing, writing, playing an instrument or putting together a puzzle. When immersed in an activity that requires our complete focus and that we enjoy, we create something that one psychologist called "flow". Activities that promote "flow" can not only raise our creativity level, but lower our stress level. Immersed in these activities, it's almost as if we are meditating. It is no wonder that people who actively pursue a passion are often happier than those who do not cultivate a hobby.
Of course, the new hobby that you take up must be positive and healthy to reap the benefits. Sitting at a slot machine pulling a lever all day is a repetitive exercise that puts you in a trance-like state where you lose track of time; however, you also lose your shirt in the process and possibly your job or your family. Chain smoking or heavy drinking are also destructive repetitive activities.
When you immerse yourself in a constructive hobby for an hour or two or three, you come back to your problems with a renewed energy. Stepping back and taking a break from your problems gives you a new perspective on life. So the next time you feel stressed, go outside and wax the car. It worked for the Karate Kid.
Photo courtesy www.cinematex.ro/poster