A hobby is defined as: “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.” Finding pleasure in your day-to-day life is important for everyone, but hobbies aren’t just a space-filler for empty gaps in your schedule. They’re often the things we enjoy most in this world, and what gives our lives meaning.
Transitioning from a high-stress, physical job like the military and going into civilian life is already tough enough. Many times, veterans are also struggling with PTSD, mental illness, or physical disability.
For them, hobbies can be the difference between being depressed and unmotivated versus purpose-driven and satisfied. In some cases they are even the difference between life and death.
Here are 12 great hobbies for military veterans:
Hobbies for Military Veterans
If you love to be outdoors, fishing – or “angling,” as it’s sometimes called – could be the perfect hobby for you! It’s also something that can be done virtually anywhere. If there’s a body of water, more than likely you can fish it. You can start with a cheap rod, some advice from your local sportsman’s shop, and a fair deal of patience. As my stepdad always told me after a bad day on the water: “That’s why they call it fishing — not catching.”
2. Hiking or camping
Here’s another one for outdoor enthusiasts. And luckily for you, you can take this hobby as mildly or extremely as you want. You don’t have the be the next contestant on Alone to love hiking and camping. Take me, for example; I’ve been hiking, hunting, and camping all my life… I still love my self-inflating air mattress, and then actually going home to watch the next episode of Alone (this time from the comfort of my real bed).
Woodworking can be as simple as taking a pocket knife to a stick. It can be as complicated as crafting a pristine bowl from a tree burl. And a million little projects in between. It’s working with your hands – like so many vets are used to – and creating something great from raw materials. This video can get you started.
4. Doing art
While woodworking is a form of art, it may not be the right form for you. Art is an umbrella term that can include painting, writing, photography, taxidermy… hell, even coloring. And yes – they make coloring books for adults. They’re pretty popular, too.
Art therapy is a real thing, and behind all the psychology there’s one sticking point: Doing art just makes you feel better. It gets you in “The Zone,” which is a state of mind that’s proven to make our brains healthier and happier. Don’t be discouraged if you think you’re a bad artist — the point of doing it is not to be good, and being an artist isn’t something you’re either born with or not. Give it a try and see what you think.
5. Brewing beer
Like beer? Check. Want to learn how to make your own? Double check. Brewing could be the hobby for you! When talking about hobbies for military veterans, this one comes up pretty often; I don’t know if it’s because soldiers just love beer, or what. In any case, it’s a great way to learn a new skill that can make you money down the road if you so choose. If you don’t, well, you still get to drink the beer. Here are 10 beginner tips to get you started.
Military veterans are usually looking for a way to stay fit after service, and there’s already a huge percentage who have taken up lifting. Weightlifting is a fantastic sport to increase your health while also increasing your confidence. Here’s some awesome beginner advice for aspiring weightlifters.
7. Playing an instrument
If you haven’t learned an instrument by now, you may feel like you’ve missed your opportunity, but you’re wrong. While it’s true that children usually pick up new skills easier, you can still become an expert guitarist at 30… or 40, 50, 60 and beyond. Here’s a list of 10 reasons to learn an instrument, including the fact that it’s stress-relieving, confidence-building, and just plain cool.
Reading is a quiet activity, which is great for people with loud, busy lives. Not only does it train your brain to be quicker and retain more information, but it transports you into an entirely new world. Whether your shtick is sci-fi, romance, or history, everyone has something to gain from reading. Check out our list of the best books by military leaders to help grow your leadership skills and library.
There’s something therapeutic about the feeling of feet pounding against asphalt. You probably did a lot of it throughout your military career, and maybe you even grew to love it. Running is a fantastic outlet for stress and other pent up emotions, and you can usually find a local runner’s club to join. If you’re more of a solo runner, make plans for a half-marathon or marathon. However you choose to do it, running is a great way to up your fitness as a veteran.
10. Quad or RC car racing
For those who really want to get physical: Try quad racing. It’s fast-paced, invigorating, and can help you get that competitive edge back. For those who aren’t as physically active, you can still race; but RC (radio controlled) car racing lets you do it from a distance. And there are tons of similar hobbies for military veterans, including ski boat racing, sailing, windsurfing, and more. To start quad racing, you should join the All-Terrain Vehicle Association, or ATVA; that’ll let you race in any ATVA sanctioned quad races, and give you a feel for the sport.
11. Learning a language
Picking up another language is hard work, but what you get out of it is invaluable. It can connect you to an entirely new community, broaden your travel horizons, and even make you money. Employers love people who speak two or more languages. You can also train to become an oral or written translator, and earn money that way. Duolingo is a quick, easy, and FREE way to begin learning a new language.
I feel like soil therapy is completely underrated. While dogs, cats, and other animals are great companions, not everyone has the time or means to take care of them; however, most people could probably take on a plant or two. Not only are you observing life, but you’re actively nurturing it. Plants improve the air quality in your living space, look great aesthetically, and can be used in salads, garnishes, and other foods. If you’d like to learn more, see if there’s a local gardening club you can join, or maybe sign up for classes at a nearby nursery.
There you have it; 12 hobbies for military veterans. Let us know what hobbies you practice, and some other ones we can add to the list!