The new year is the traditional moment to get your shit together. Get in shape, clean up your dating profile, pull your finances into something resembling a plan. Whatever you’ve been slacking on, you know that on January 1, you’ll be in good company as you begin the work of self-improvement.
But what if you’re not a slacker? What if your diet and fitness are tip-top, your love life is right where you want it to be, and your credit card balance and 401k are such stuff as dreams are made of?
If that’s you … well, first of all, teach us your ways. But second of all, you’re not out of options when it comes to self-improvement efforts for the new year. When your regular life is so put together it’s practically on autopilot, what you need is a hobby.
Hobbies are more than a way to pleasantly pass the time — they offer a ton of psychological benefits, such as relieving stress, anxiety, and depression, fostering creative flow, and promoting productivity and efficiency in all areas of your life. More than that, hobbies make you a more interesting person by adding dimension to the trifecta of work/relationship/geographical location we all use to define each other. Hobbies put you outside the bounds of categorization, making for better job interviews, first dates, and happy hour small talk.
We’ve put together a list of potential manly hobbies for your consideration in the coming new year. Some are sports-oriented, others artistic, while still others slant more toward domestic pursuits. The learning curve or financial outlay may be steeper with some than with others, but bear in mind, the point with a hobby isn’t mastery — it’s having a good time.
Note: As a woman writing this article, I consulted with male friends, family, and coworkers for what they considered the most “manly” hobbies they could take up in the new year. But I won’t pretend that the list isn’t curated with a healthy dose of the woman’s point of view. After all, impressing the ladies isn’t the only reason to incorporate a new passion or practice your life … but it is a reason.
Is there any symbol of manhood more poignant than the bowed head and strong hands of a man meditatively shaping a hardwood bough with a well-sharpened knife? This hobby, once a widespread practice, fell into disuse over the 20th century. However, the revival of Americana and folk crafts has raised it from obscurity. Whittling might be the perfect hobby — you can do it anywhere, even in front of the TV. It allows you to zone out while keeping your hands busy at something productive (i.e., not video games). It strengthens your finer muscles and motor points while connecting you with your artistic side. In the end, you have something useful and beautiful to show for it.
Nothing strikes up social camaraderie like proposing a game of darts, and nothing commands respect like having your own steel-tipped set ready for the purpose. The quintessential manly sport that makes equals among old and young, fit and flabby alike. As sporting endeavors go, it’s as cheap to take up as it is challenging to master. Along with improving concentration, motor control and hand-eye coordination, throwing darts alone is a prime opportunity to blast your favorite music and get lost in an intuitive flow, but you can also join a local league if you prefer practicing in good company. And trust us when we say that a proper boar’s-hair dartboard is a hell of a lot more manly domestic prop than a video game console.
No matter what variety you incline toward — deep sea, fly, just dropping a line off a dock — any form of fishing offers a hearty dose of manly cachet alongside its other benefits. Any hobby that gets you outdoors brings the benefit of vitamin D absorption, mood-boosting endorphins, and lowered blood pressure. Prolonged time in nature also offers the rare opportunity for enjoying some all too rare peace and quiet. It’s no coincidence that some of the greatest artists are and were also devoted fisherman: Ernest Hemingway, Carl Hiaasen, Roger Daltrey, Jimmy Buffett, Michael Keaton, and Liam Neeson are just a few of the masculine icons for whom fishing is a passion.
We know you know that yoga isn’t just for girls. That said, when was the last time you put some serious effort into your Series A sun salutation? The benefits of yoga for guys go beyond showing off how woke you are. Yoga complements cardio, weightlifting, and other more conventional workouts by building stamina, increasing your flexibility, and protecting against injuries by improving body awareness. Along with revealing muscles you never knew you had, yoga can help you sleep better, increase productivity, and even enhance your sexual performance. Need further motivation? Google some images of “partner yoga” or “acro yoga” — we guarantee you’ll be signing up a for class today. Here are some beginner yoga tips for men.
If you’ve dabbled in homebrewing, you know that in most cases, it’s a lot of effort (and expense) for results that are mixed, at best. Switching out the beer for bitters gives you the same mad scientist-type fun with an equally boozy payoff. Plus, understanding the flavor compounds that go into bitters will give you the edge in mixing a more nuanced libation. Just a few easy-to-find ingredients and a few hours’ work yield a perfectly serviceable bitter; the creativity comes in as you source more exotic ingredients, play with proportions, and invent new recipes.
Another classic masculine practice that somehow got relegated to “girl stuff,” at least in American culture, is the art of baking bread. One look at the ropy forearms of a professional baker and you’ll instantly see the machismo inherent in this pursuit. Need further proof? Visit @boyswithbread on Instagram and you’ll see a litany of bearded bros proudly showcasing their exploits in crust and crumb. When did this trend for men to take up baking come? Maybe it’s a big “screw you” to the whole keto/paleo diet craze. Maybe it’s the opportunity to impress a lady — “You like a guy who’s good in the kitchen? Hold my beer.” Or maybe it’s just a great way to bring together your brain, muscles, and artistic sensibility into something that rewards all the senses.
For those who know there’s a lot more to good brisket and pulled pork than painting it with sauce and slapping it on the grill, this could be the perfect hobby to take up. Whether you choose to go after it Texas-style, Carolina-style or Kansas City-style (my personal favorite), true barbecue is an all-day affair of careful preparation, precise timing, top-notch materials, and loving intuition. This hobby takes a little more financial layout than most; you’ll need a smoker or charcoal grill, a top-notch meat thermometer, a chimney starter, and a few other odds and ends. It also takes no small amount of patience. As any pitmaster will tell you, authentic barbecue takes years to perfect. To which we say, “Is that a promise?” Warning: don’t get started unless you want your home to become the designated gathering place for every occasion your hungry friends can make up.
The beauty of gardening (besides the obvious) is that it’s a hobby that can take just about any form that suits your fancy. You could join the social media frenzy by becoming a “plant dad” to towering fiddle leaf figs, elegantly cascading strings of pearls, and other having-a-moment houseplants. Alternatively, you could plow up the backyard, build a hoop house, and spend the year dining on the fruits of your own labor. You could take up bonsai, sprout some microgreens in your kitchen window, adopt a community garden space. Whatever avenue you choose, gardening is a great way to enjoy the calming benefits of connecting with nature in the most convenient way possible.
2018 most definitely proved that when it comes to hobby as lifestyle, activism is the new CrossFit. There has never been a better new year than the one we’re entering now to put some effort behind values. That doesn’t mean you have to go out and join Antifa or donate all your beer money to charity. Activism is really as simple as volunteering your time to a cause that matters to you. It can be spending one evening per month manning a phone bank, passing out meals to the homeless, taking shelter dogs for a walk, or just helping the staff of a nonprofit get some basic organization done. (It’s hard to find time to clean out storage closets or file cabinets when you’re saving the world all the time.) Volunteer a weekend doing a trail or coastal cleanup, building a house with Habitat for Humanity, or playing basketball with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and you’ll get to combine some cardio with your good deeds. As a side benefit, volunteering is one of the best ways to hear some of the best stories you’d never learn otherwise and expand your network with some truly quality human beings.