Hands knitting with grey yarn

How Your Hobbies Can Make You Financially Fit

2008 was a tough financial year for the U.S. Negative headlines popped up on newspapers across the country, with economic uncertainty weighing on many. Ever since, the U.S. has worked hard to ensure that the scar that was left behind healed, making every effort to ensure something like this would never happen again.

That said, my impressionable memories during that period are of evenings sitting on the roof of my building, crocheting. Though I was impacted by the country’s financial hardships, my concerns on the subject melted with the setting sun after long days of entry-level work.

Crocheting was a tool to help me wind down at the end of the day. But what I didn’t know at the time was that it was also shaping me to be more productive and focused in other areas of my life. And I certainly never would have expected that a decade later, Google headquarters would sponsor workplace knitting sessions for their employees to capture similar levels of productivity and wellness.

Clearly I wasn’t the only one to make use of a helpful hobby in times of uncertainty. And if an entity as big as Google was getting on board, there had to be some research to support it as an extracurricular. After doing some digging of my own, it turns out there’s an underlying principle behind fear that may explain why pleasant activities keep us balanced.

Fearing the Unknown
When thinking about the more trying times in life, you might notice that uncertainty is often feared more than suffering. It’s plain to see how easily humans can crave certainty and resist change. This may be due to a brain function called default mode network (DMN).

The default mode network (DMN) is a network within the brain that connects with other regions of the brain, and it works only when we are keeping our minds at rest. Usually this occurs when we are daydreaming or wondering about something, rather than focusing on certain tasks. However, studies have found that DMN can also function when we’re thinking about someone, when we recall the past and when we plan for our future.

Our financial futures are full of uncertainty and DMN can prey on that, affecting the way we work and think. By training your mind to function similarly to how it does while engaged in hobbies, people may feel better about taking steps to confront their financial plan.

DMN & Financial Planning
Now that you are familiar with DMN and its counter effects, you may catch yourself daydreaming about:

  • Memories
  • Preparing for future conflicts
  • Comparing yourself to others

These are lines of thinking of DMN. DMN, as we mentioned above, activates when we are not engaging our minds and therefore, it goes into default mode. It helps us think about ways to improve our lives and prepare us for difficulties that could arise in our uncertain futures. It's a necessary function, but it's easy to see why this type of thinking can be detrimental in certain areas.

DMN can build unnecessary worry and fears that often prevent people from confronting their financial concerns confidently. The best way to overcome this is by elevating your thoughts and engaging in problem solving, like figuring out the best pattern for a knitted sweater. This quiets that part of your brain and helps you to think more objectively. Let’s look at a few ways to do this:

Financial Literacy with a Twist
Gain financial literacy with a problem-solving mindset. At In Good Company we deliver financial literacy workshops where guests engage in scenarios and word-problem activities surrounding financial topics — elevating the problem-solving part of the brain and avoiding scare tactics that often hamper financial wellness. Contact us to set up a class or grab a copy of the Wall Street Journal and educate yourself, with the sole intention of learning something new.

Pick Up a Hobby
If you find that money is stressing you out, research a fun activity that requires creativity or problem solving. It could be as simple as playing a board game or something more tangible that engages your brain. When finances are bringing you down, take breaks with your new finhobby. If you are ruminating over a financial problem that you can’t control, you may find that you do your best thinking after engaging in your hobby. By doing so, DMN can become dormant.

Fear can be a motivating factor in the decisions we make — and when thoughts go into default mode as DMN is activated, the more likely these fearful patterns can let a negative mindset override the system. When it comes to finances, this relentless mode of thinking can consume our days. But much like conquering DMN with a fun hobby or problem-solving outlook, viewing financial stress as an exciting puzzle to work through can make all the difference.