Pandemic pastimes

Toronto residents find ways to invest in their personal development during COVID-19

After over a year of lockdown boredom, some Torontonians have been inspired to rekindle old hobbies or start new ones while isolated at home. 

A Canadian research study found that 63 per cent of Canadians have begun new hobbies to pass time while staying at home. Playing games, cooking and baking were the most commonly-reported pastimes. 

Sania Siddiqui, a nutrition and food service management student at Centennial College, revived her love for baking as a form of relaxation and de-stressing during the pandemic.

“As soon as school finished, I didn’t have much to do. So it made perfect sense for me to get back into it,” she says. “It did reignite the baker in me because I hadn’t done it for a long time.”

She describes how getting back into baking has helped her fill time without having to worry about planning ahead. 

“I think a hobby should be something where you don’t have to stress about it because sometimes we can have stress in our lives from different things, even things that are supposed to bring you pleasure,” Siddiqui says. For her, baking doesn’t take a lot of effort or preparation, as long as she has all of the ingredients. “Plus I’m making something that everybody loves, and all those hours spent making it is worth it.”  

Meerab Anwar, a second-year human biology and health student at the University of Toronto, has newly found interests in flower-pressing, embroidering cushions and tending to her garden. 

“During fall, I had a garden outside and the flowers were about to die, so when they still looked fresh I would snip some of them off,” Anwar says. 

She finds that flower-pressing can take a lot of skill because petals need to be pressed in a certain way to not be crushed and sometimes can lose their colour entirely. 

“I think it’s a really nice way to preserve them. I had some really nice marigolds in my backyard so I decided to preserve them, and that was a better alternative to just letting them die,” she says. 

She describes how her embroidery and gardening projects have helped her with self-development, as well as strengthening her relationship with her mother. 

“I found that I get excited and start a bunch of projects, but don’t complete them because it’s really hard for me to keep the motivation going and complete it. So in a way, embroidering with my mother motivates both of us and it’s a project that I’ve continuously done and completed all the way through,” Anwar says. “Embroidery really taught me the idea of patience and completing a full task without giving up halfway.” 

A study found that the benefits of gardening and engaging with the natural environment can have significant impacts on one’s self-esteem and mood, act as a stress-buster and help to reduce anxiety. 

Anwar says her new hobbies and backyard garden have been beneficial for her mental health. “I usually get very anxious when I feel like I’m not being productive and other people are getting ahead while you’re staying behind,” she says. “When I started gardening, I realized that I didn’t have to be productive.”

Like many other Canadians in the pandemic, Siddiqui and Anwar found the silver lining to isolating at home and discovered the benefits that come with the pursuit of a new hobby.

About the author

Reporter at Youth Mind

Khaleda is a former reporter for Youth Mind. If she's not daydreaming of owning a bookstore cafe, she's most likely pining over pretty classic book covers.


  • Mohammed Hasan Khan

    And others took to the hobby of upcycling wooden furniture and scooting the same from Online sales and curb side pick ups. It was strange transactions where many dropped the money in the letter boxes and porch picked up products.
    My tean aged daughter and son created a series of beautiful pieces of art from WWII trunks to armoire and treasurer chests.
    Indeed ! These are the times that stunned us into isolation and silence but left us many memories and stories to tell of ‘ How we survived yhe 2020’.

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