All work and no play: 5 hobbies for busy physicians

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, for MDLinx
Published November 19, 2018

Key Takeaways

Most physicians work 40 to 60 hours a week, and about one-quarter between 61 and 80 hours, according to the 2014 Work/Life Profiles of Today’s Physician, released by American Medical Association Insurance. In light of such long work hours, it’s important that physicians find relaxing and refreshing ways to recharge outside of work.

“Do not become too deeply absorbed in your profession to exclude all outside interests,” said William Osler, the great diagnostician and clinician who revolutionized the medical curriculum of the United States and Canada. “No matter what it is, have an outside hobby.”

Here are five different hobbies for the busy physician. These hobbies are easy to start and easy on the wallet.

1. Woodcarving: Woodcarving is the art and practice of carving wood to create functional and ornamental objects. To begin, all you need is some basswood, a high-carbon steel knife, sandpaper, and a thumb guard, all of which can be purchased online for well under $100. High-carbon steel knives are best for woodcarving because they can be sharpened.

You may be surprised to learn that most pieces can be carved using the following four cuts: the paring cut, the push-away cut, the V-cut, and the stop cut. Once you’re done carving your masterpiece, you can paint it in acrylic paint and use varnish or lacquer.

If interested in learning more about woodcarving, there are many videos available online to kick-start this new hobby.

2. Painting in acrylic: Acrylics are a great medium for beginning artists because they are inexpensive, versatile, and quick drying. Acrylics are made of plastic polymer and can be applied to any surface that doesn’t contain wax or oil, including canvas, canvas boards, wood panels, and paper.

One thing to keep in mind for beginning acrylic painters is that acrylics dry quickly. With these paints, you want to work efficiently and keep the paint on your brush wet. Bigger brushes, which are used for bigger shapes, will dry more quickly than smaller brushes used for detail.

Acrylics paints can be layered to add complexity to your work. They are also great for mixed media and collage.

3. Calligraphy: Just because you’re handwriting may not be the greatest does not mean that you can’t become a skilled calligrapher.

Calligraphy sets contain useful tools for the beginner, and different websites offer worksheet sets that can be printed for practice. Just take things slowly. Check out Instagram for calligraphy inspiration.

4. Stargazing: With the naked eye, you can see galaxies located millions of light years away. With a pair of binoculars, you can see craters on the moon.

When starting out, it’s a good idea to begin with binoculars, which provide plenty of vantage, and then graduate to a telescope, which catches only a small sliver of the night sky. Keep in mind that you can also view many celestial bodies with the naked eye even if you live in light-polluted areas, such as Polaris and Jupiter. Moreover, if you love falling stars, the Perseid meteor shower in August can also be viewed with the unaided eye.

Stargazing is a hobby that involves learning and is great for the autodidact. Whereas once the budding stargazer needed to go to the library to procure star maps and guidebooks to identify star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae, nowadays there are many apps available that make learning this hobby easier. These apps, including Star Chart and Skyview, are either free or low-cost.

With some practice, you’ll be able to identify stars on your own and regale family and friends with your heavenly knowledge. You may also want to keep a diary to keep track of your newfound discoveries.

5. Birding: If you are interested in stargazing, which already requires a pair of binoculars, why don’t you consider birding, or bird watching, too? In addition to binoculars, all you need is a bird guide, bird ID card, or app.

Bird guides are typically organized by skill level. Beginning birders identify birds by color, intermediate birders identify birds by shape, and advanced birders identify birds by taxonomy. As with stargazing, consider keeping a diary.

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