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Adulting 101: How to have a hobby beyond mindless Netflixing

SINGAPORE — Like many Singaporeans, I discovered my hobbies and interests while participating in mandatory co-curricular activities in school or volunteering as a student.

Adulting 101: How to have a hobby beyond mindless Netflixing

Adulthood is an invigorating stage of life as young people join the workforce, take on more responsibilities and set their sights on the future. But its many facets — from managing finances and buying a home to achieving work-life balance — can be overwhelming.

In this series, TODAY’s journalists help young Singaporeans navigate this stage of their lives and learn something themselves in the process.


SINGAPORE — Like many Singaporeans, I discovered my hobbies and interests while participating in mandatory co-curricular activities in school or volunteering as a student.

In junior college, I developed an interest in theatre after drama lessons. In university, I discovered that I enjoyed teaching after taking up mentoring stints.

I tried to pursue these interests even after entering the workforce but soon found them falling by the wayside.

Sleep, television and coffee catch-up with friends took precedence over dragging myself to a theatre performance or signing up for volunteering opportunities.

But it was the circuit breaker imposed last year to keep people homebound due to the coronavirus outbreak that truly exposed how dull a person I had become.

While everyone spent their forced downtime baking, gardening, hiking or whipping up Dalgona coffee, I was whiling away my time on Netflix, Instagram and TikTok.

I would spend hours after work watching several episodes of the latest shows online and then spend another hour scrolling through social media platforms before nodding off to sleep.

My circuit breaker experience paled in comparison to friends who excitedly shared how they had picked up yoga, adopted a pet or set up a mini garden at home.

I rued the fact that I had squandered the chance to be more productive outside of work.


Counsellors I spoke to for this piece said that it is not unusual for people to prioritise work or family over their hobbies as they get older.

Ms Clarice Ng, a counsellor with Mind What Matters, said that while the education system here provides opportunities for social interaction, such as mandatory co-curricular activities, it becomes harder to intentionally carve out time for other pursuits as an adult.

The pandemic also seems to have fuelled my unproductive habits.

In the TODAY Youth Survey conducted in early October, findings showed that the top three negative social habits young Singaporeans had picked up during the pandemic were mindless social media scrolling, TV bingeing and snacking.

Commenting on the results, Dr Joel Yang, a clinical psychologist at Mind What Matters, had said that social media and TV provide instant gratification and stimulation for people trying to cope with the stress of the pandemic.

Ms Ng, his colleague, said: “In our world of constant stimulation, a mindless activity becomes a form of rest.”


Counsellors stressed that it is “perfectly okay” to watch Netflix. However, individuals must be aware of why they are doing so.

Ms Sophia Goh, a counsellor at Sofia Wellness Clinic, said: “Are you watching Netflix because it aligns with your interests, such as a documentary about the environment that is informative… Or is it because we are just mindlessly filling up our time?

“What makes a difference is the intention — start with being aware of your Netflix use and why you are watching Netflix.”

Ms Ng said that the same hobby could have different effects on people.

For example, watching a documentary on Netflix could leave someone feeling enriched and rested. On the other hand, someone who is forced to go hiking, which is usually seen as a positive activity, could end up feeling unrested instead.

The key, Ms Ng said, is to have hobbies that leave us feeling “nourished” and allow us to rest intentionally instead of passing time with distractions.

Ms Goh of Sofia Wellness Clinic said that to gauge if an activity adds value to you, ask yourself if an activity makes you feel excited, satisfied or feeling like you have learnt something.

Fish tanks set up by aquascaping hobbyist Lai Cam Linh. Mr Lai picked up the hobby five years ago at the age of 34 while buying pet fish for his daughter. Photo: Lai Cam Linh


Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of picking up new hobbies such as video editing, poetry writing or learning a new language.

However, it was always less of a hassle to jump on the couch after a long day at work and leave an episode of Friends running in the background.

Other people also told me that they have found it difficult to keep up with hobbies they enjoyed in the past.

Ms Nurul Nabila Mohamed Naseem, a 26-year-old executive assistant in the healthcare sector, said that she used to read up to 10 books a month as a student but now finds herself requiring a lot more mental effort to focus on reading after a full day of sending emails.

However, Ms Nabila said that she found a replacement hobby in pole dancing instead. The physically demanding activity does not require staring at a screen and allows her to relieve stress after work.

Ms Nabila disclosed that she had been hesitant about picking it up because she did not feel confident. But she eventually mustered the motivation to sign up for classes in March after a friend suggested that they try lessons together.

Aquascaping enthusiast Lai Cam Linh, who started pursuing his hobby five years ago at the age of 34, emphasised that “it’s never too late to learn something new”.

It is easy to pick up something new in this day and age given the amount of information available online, the environmental engineer said.

Mr Lai, who had discovered aquascaping while buying a pet fish for his daughter, said that he picked up the hobby through YouTube tutorials and online forums.

“Once you do your research, your success rate will be higher and the learning curve much flatter.” 

Ms Goh, the counsellor, acknowledged that it might be daunting to start something new.

In such instances, it may help to break it down into smaller steps such as researching available classes, booking the class and buying materials.

To overcome the inertia of picking up a new hobby, Ms Ng of Mind What Matters said that the first step is to set a limit on unproductive activities (think Netflix bingeing) and introduce other activities in its place.

These replacement activities should inspire, excite or allow you to grow and learn new things.

TODAY senior journalist Navene Elangovan started weekly rock-climbing sessions several months ago.


Time and again, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon when trying to pick up a new hobby.

Inspired by gardener friends during the pandemic, I tried to grow my own plants and then gave up after they died before blooming.

I also had to shelve my ambitions to be the next MasterChef Singapore after post-cooking clean-up left me more stressed than rested.

Hobbyists I spoke to shared tips on how they keep committed to their hobbies.

Ms Nabila said that while there are days where she feels too exhausted to attend a pole dancing class, she sticks to them since she has already paid for the lessons in advance.

Ms Goh, the counsellor, suggested that I set small targets to keep committed to a new hobby.

For instance, I could work towards playing a certain song on an instrument or running a certain distance.

Another way is to pay for a fixed number of classes — having something definite will give me something to look forward to, she added.  


I haven’t given up on pursuing new hobbies altogether. For me, the biggest motivating factor has been to find pursuits that give me joy, purpose and an identity outside of my career.

A friend of mine shared the same sentiment, saying: “I want to be able to look at my non-working hours and feel like I’m spending my short time on Earth doing more than just watching mindless television shows.”

I have already put in place some of the tips offered by counsellors and other hobbyists for this piece.

I started weekly rock-climbing sessions several months ago, been on a kayaking expedition and signed up for an improvisational theatre class in a bid to rediscover myself outside of work.

To keep myself committed, I signed up for these activities with friends and made payments in advance so that I would see through them.

Hopefully, I will have more than an analysis of the Netflix hit Squid Game to share the next time someone asks about my hobbies.


Navene Elangovan, 31, is a senior journalist at TODAY, covering environment, education and housing.

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