In today’s hustle and bustle, it is getting increasingly difficult to find time for ourselves and for doing the things we love. However, it is exactly in these times that it is incredibly important to do so. Everyone knows that hobbies help us relax and unwind, but you may not have considered all the additional benefits of these leisure-time activities besides all the fun you can have with them.
Hobbies can give a boost to your physical and mental wellbeing, they can make you feel fulfilled and accomplished. They allow you to get immersed in the activity at hand, improve your mindfulness and cognition, and lower your stress levels – in fact, studies have clearly shown that people are noticeably less stressed while engaging in leisure activities. Not only do they report better mood and even a lower heart rate compared to when not engaging in these activities, but their interest levels are also higher, which is a great shield against disengagement and self-destructive activities that stem out of boredom.
The best thing about hobbies is that there is something for everyone. If one thing is not for you, you can simply seek out something else and you will still reap the benefits. If you are in search of a new hobby, here are 5 that are especially great for mental health.
If you are looking for a hobby that allows for self-expression, dabbling into art might be the thing for you. Filling a page with color, molding clay, drawing, or any other kind of visual art boost creativity and benefit your psyche. A study has found significantly lower cortisol levels in adults after just a 45-minute art session, which means this is a perfect way to relieve stress and forget about your problems for the time being. A hands-on activity such as making art boosts mindfulness, too: you focus on what’s in front of you and are present in the moment, all the while making something truly unique with your own hands. You don’t have to be good at art in order to enjoy it, and it’s entirely up to you what kind of artistic activity you will indulge in. For instance, there is a good reason why adult coloring books became so popular recently, so why not try them?
Another fantastic hobby that will have a multitude of benefits for your mental wellbeing is baking. It also involves hands-on work that will encourage mindfulness and the formation of new connections in your brain. Since baking requires a lot of attention, it engages your brain and distracts you from your problems, effectively relieving stress. Baking is also a creative activity once you let go of strict cookbook instructions, which means that you’ll get to enjoy a mood boost while engaging in it, just like with artistic activities. What’s also great about this hobby is that there is a high potential for a sense of accomplishment. You’re making something you will get to enjoy in the end. It’s something you can be proud of and something that will help you grow your self-esteem. In addition, even sharing your home-baked goods has mental health benefits: gift-giving makes people happier, and it’s a great way to show our love, too.
Yet another hobby that can simply improve your quality of life in several ways is gardening. Gardening is often said to be one of the best hobbies to take up against the negative effects of stress and even when battling depression. Gardening requires you to spend time outdoors, among greenery, which in itself is already a fantastic remedy to stress. Nature makes us feel relaxed, while the sunshine boosts our vitamin D levels which have a crucial role in regulating our mood. In addition, gardening is a perfect way to get physical exercise that is so important for our physical and mental health. But the list of benefits still does not end here. Tending to your vegetable garden also fills you with a sense of purpose, and picking the fruit of your labor gives you a sense of accomplishment. It doesn’t take much to get started; if you already have some garden space, all you need is a pair of gloves, some seeds, some basic tools like a hand rake and a spade, a retractable hose reel to help with watering, and some pruning shears. Get the rest as you go!
While the previously mentioned hobbies mostly had to do with making something and focusing your attention on manual tasks, the next one is a little different. Dancing is undeniably an extremely fun way to get your daily dose of exercise, but it has a slew of other benefits for your mental wellbeing as well. Dancing is an effective stress and anxiety reliever. Not only does the movement encourage your brain to release those happy hormones, but dancing usually comes with socialization, and making new friends helps us feel more connected and fulfilled. But that is not all. Dancing has even been found to be an extremely good way of protecting yourself from dementia. Memorizing the different movements and choreographies is like a workout for the brain. With low-impact dances, there is really no downside to this hobby.
Finally, a hobby does not have to be physical activity in order to work wonders. Reading is a very beneficial activity – studies have shown it to be effective at relieving stress and lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. Getting immersed in a good book distracts you from your stressors and allows you to jump into a different world and completely relax. It does, however, matter what you pick up. We do a lot of reading on a daily basis that is more out of necessity than our own free will, and that is not the same as reading for pleasure. That is why it’s important that you pick a topic that genuinely interests you and doesn’t upset you. Pick up a magazine about gardening, or go to your local library for a good novel. Feed your mind and enrich your world with reading – it’s something anyone can do.
Setting aside some time for our hobbies is important in order to keep our stress levels in check. Take up any of the aforementioned 5 options and you will see what a big difference it makes.