When You Have No Interests Or Hobbies
If someone has this issue they'll say things like:
- "I don't have any real interests at the moment. I don't have a big hobby that defines me like a lot of people do."
- "I do things like go on the internet, watch TV, or play video games, but that's mainly to make the time go by. It's not like I'm ultra-passionate about any of it."
- "I guess I do enjoy gaming a bit, but I don't have any urge to talk to other people about it."
- "I like going for walks, but that doesn't count. It's not worth mentioning if someone asks what I do for fun."
People can be concerned about this for its own sake. They picked up the idea that everyone is supposed to have a bunch of hobbies, and wonder if something is wrong with them because they don't. They can also worry their lack of interests may affect their social interactions - "Everyone will think I'm boring. I'll have nothing to talk about."
This site being about interpersonal skills and all, I'll focus on that side of things. I'll come at the topic from the perspective of, "It's not a total social deal breaker if you don't have half a dozen colorful hobbies, though it doesn't hurt to clarify what your interests are or find some new ones."
You're not necessarily boring to talk to just because you don't have any hobbies
When it comes to chatting with people it can certainly help if you have a bunch of hobbies to discuss, but they're not totally necessary. Plenty of people are still good conversationalists, and fun and interesting to be around, even though they live ordinary lives and mostly spend their spare time doing run of the mill things like watching TV. I'm sure you've also met someone who had several exotic interests, but was still stilted and awkward to chat to. Maybe they even brought up their hobbies, but droned on about them.
A lot of conversation is about things other than discussing your hobbies. If you meet up with two friends you may all talk about:
- Recent developments in each of your lives (e.g., how you did on your last exam, the funny thing your kid did at the barber)
- Other people you know, and what they've been up to (e.g., updates from a mutual co-worker about their trip to Argentina)
- Your opinions on current events (e.g., why you think a recent big movie bombed at the box office)
- Your opinions on random topics that come up as you're all talking (e.g., why you'd rather go to Brazil than Argentina)
- Movies or TV shows you've each seen recently (you don't need a full-on interest in films or shows to bring up ones you've been watching)
- Sharing interesting things you read or heard (e.g., "Oh, this is funny. I was listening to a podcast the other day, and it was talking about how raccoons that live in the city are way smarter...") Everyone picks up facts or ideas worth sharing here and there. They're not something you can only learn while pursuing a hobby
- Interesting one-off things you've done, that aren't related to a particular hobby (e.g., visiting a festival in another town)
- Things that have happened in your past (e.g., the topic of school comes up, and you tell a story about your weird second grade teacher)
- Plans for the future (e.g., your friend tells you how they're preparing to switch jobs)
- Offering support (e.g., your friend is stressed about their relatives, and you let them vent for a while)
- Things you're doing as you're chatting (e.g., commenting on what you see as you stroll around the city, debating strategies in the board game you're playing)
- Joking around about nothing in particular
- Listening to them talk about their hobbies, which you can still do even if you don't have any yourself
That's just a partial list. People can get together and talk for hours without once touching on their hobbies. If you're a good conversationalist while you cover those other things, few people are going to care that you don't spend your free moments pursuing all kinds of unique pastimes.
Maybe you're thinking, "Well that's when you're talking to someone you know. When you're meeting new people they usually ask about your hobbies. I don't have a good answer. I probably come off as boring." Again, while it is handy if you can rattle off five intriguing interests you have, you're not necessarily doomed if you can't.
Here are some ways to answer the "What do you do for fun?" question:
- First, remind yourself that you don't need a million hobbies to be interesting, and draw some confidence from that.
- Just tell people your supposedly "boring", "don't really count" interests like reading, watching movies, or working out. Say everything in a straightforward, no big deal tone. Don't act like you're embarrassed and apologetic for having such a supposedly lame reply.
- If you feel the need to explain yourself, you could say something like, "I don't have a big hobby at the moment, though I'm on the lookout for one" or "I'm really busy with my family these days, so I don't have time for a full-on hobby, though when I have some free time I like to unwind by reading and going to the gym."
- If you're between hobbies, you can say that, then maybe mention one you used to have. That still tells people about what kinds of things you're into - "I don't have a main hobby right this second, though last year I was trying to teach myself how to knit."
- It's not so much about how you answer the question as where you go from there. Like if you gave a "boring" response of saying you're into movies, you could talk about a recent one you've watched, ask if they've seen it, and maybe start a discussion about filmmaking. If you've told them you don't have any true hobbies at the moment, you can ask about theirs, and spend a while learning about what they're interested in.
Another factor is that just because you have a hobby, it doesn't automatically mean it will give you a ton of free conversation material. Lots of people have hobbies they're fascinated by, but realize not everyone wants to hear about. Even common interests like following sports can be a dead end topic if the person you're talking to doesn't care about them. Or you may have a hobby you'd love to discuss, but mainly with another enthusiast; it's not fun for you to explain the basics to someone who knows nothing about it.
Figure out what interests you actually already have
Sometimes people worry that they have no interests, but if they think about it for a bit they realize they're into more things than they first realized. They dismissed or didn't consider the ones they had. It can help to sit down and list out what your interests are.
The first thing to keep in mind is not to write things off:
- Don't dismiss interests that are mundane or common, like watching movies, reading, or working out. Something still counts even if it's not that original.
- Don't dismiss interests that aren't popular with everyone, like playing video games. It's still an interest even if some people look down on it as a waste of time. (I get that practically you may not always want to mention it to people who won't understand, but it's still a valid pastime.)
- Don't dismiss interests you only spend a bit of time on. If you like to try out a new recipe every couple of weeks you've got an interest in cooking. There's not an arbitrary cut off where you're only allowed to claim it as a hobby if you cook a new dish every three days.
- You don't need to be great at something for it to be a proper hobby. If you like to draw, you like to draw. You don't need to be an amazing artist.
- Something can be an interest even if you just enjoy it a bit or do it to kill time. You can be into mountain biking even if you just like taking the odd ride around the easy local trails when you want to get out of the house. It doesn't have to be biggest source of passion and purpose in your life.
- Don't write off things you drop in and out of. You can still be interested in a sport overall, even if there are years where you don't feel like following it much.
It's fine if you wish you did have a hobby that was more all-consuming, but you shouldn't disregard the things you dabble in.
Next, think about whether you have any broader interests that aren't tied to one activity. For example, you read, watch, and listen to a seemingly random mix of online articles, YouTube videos, and podcasts. You also go to a mishmash of one-off events around town. At first it may seem you're haphazardly killing time, but then you figure out the commonality connecting everything you're drawn to is that you have an interest in learning about how culture and society works.
Actively try to develop new interests
Let's say that after doing everything above, you learn you still don't have any interests, or only a handful of things you're semi-into. As I've said, it's okay if you don't have any hobbies, or one's you're really passionate about. It's also understandable if you want to try to find some. You can purposely try new things and see what speaks to you. A few tips, based on some ways people can go wrong here:
- Don't feel you have to fall in love with something instantly to keep at it. I'm not saying to force yourself to gut out things you're sure you hate. Though you may only sort of enjoy a hobby at first, then like it more as you learn more and get better at it.
- Don't feel you have to be good at something right away to continue with it. Some hobbies have a steeper learning curve. Especially don't make the mistake of thinking that if you're not immediately talented at a skill, you can never get better down the road.
- Look for ways to cheaply test out more-expensive hobbies. Don't think you have to commit to something blind and spend a bunch of money right away. For example, rent a guitar for a month, borrow a friend's camping equipment, or take some free beginner dance lessons.
- If you find your first instinct is to quickly decide you dislike most things, try to give them one or two more chances. You won't come to love everything, but there may be a pastime you'll realize you enjoy once you've pushed past your tendency to be negative about new activities.
If nothing else, trying out different interests will give you some new experiences to talk about. As you're testing things out you could even joke your hobby is looking for a hobby.
Ask if you could flesh out one of your existing casual interests
For example, if you casually watch movies, instead of just sitting in front of whatever's available, you could try to see some classic or cult films from the genres you like. You could also learn more about things like cinematography or screenwriting, so you can better appreciate what you see on the screen. You won't want to turn all your half-interests into full-fledged hobbies, but some of them might have that potential.
Address any outside factors that could be interfering with your ability to have interests
Some common interfering-factors are:
- Low-grade depression, the kind you may not even realize you have. Some symptoms of depression are: losing interest in things you used to enjoy, feeling apathetic and unmotivated in general, having low energy, difficulty focusing and concentrating, and wanting to hole up at home.
- Not being depressed, but being in a rut in your life where you're not doing much of anything. There isn't much going on with your interests, but neither is there with your career, education, or relationships.
- Being really busy and stretched thin. It's hard to have hobbies if you barely have any free time, and when you do you just want to veg out and recover.
- Not having much money. There are plenty of hobbies you can do for free, or really cheaply, but others are more expensive.
This article can't go into how to deal with these issues, or claim you can fix them in a jiffy, but it can at least bring them to your attention. Plenty of other sources have advice on them.