Hobbies Can Benefit Your Mental Health
Health

Discover The Many Ways Hobbies Can Benefit Your Mental Health

This post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

Millions of Americans have hobbies, yet how many of us regularly spend time on our hobbies without feeling like we should be doing something else more productive? Yet hobbies are actually an important lifestyle habit we can use to enhance our mental health.

Seeking ways to improve your mental health should always be something to be proud of. But sometimes it’s possible to still feel overwhelmed even after taking positive mental health steps. Know that you’re not alone, and there are options. Don’t hesitate to explore online therapy as an option if the steps you’ve been taking to improve your mental health aren’t enough to get the results you need in your life.

In this article, we’ll look more closely at some of the research behind how hobbies can enhance your mental wellbeing and some strategies for adding hobbies to your life.

What Makes An Activity A Hobby?

First, what qualifies as a hobby? Hobbies can take many forms. You can have a hobby that involves restoring old cars, painting, adult coloring books, reading, fishing, travel, gardening, photography, woodworking, birdwatching, origami, or sewing, plus so many more.

Here’s what makes an activity a hobby or not, when you do something simply for pleasure. For example, photography is not a hobby if you’re a wedding photographer who’s paid to photograph events. In this case, photography is a professional pursuit. Hobbies are by definition something you do for pure joy, not for money.

Whatever you choose as your hobby, the activity should be a break from the stresses of daily life. A hobby should be similar to the way meditating helps clear your mind and allow you to feel more focused.

Some Potential Benefits Of Hobbies

According to science, there are a multitude of ways hobbies can enrich our lives. Let’s look at some of the research-backed ways hobbies and interests can benefit mental wellbeing.

• Creative activities can bring a sense of wellbeing – Not all hobbies have to be creative per se. But there’s almost always something creative you bring to a hobby, even a pastime like fishing where you have to tie lures. Using your creativity has potential benefits for other parts of your life too, according to this study.

• Stress relief – Have you ever wanted to hit the escape hatch on your life? We’ve all been there. At times, everyone could use a break from difficult moments to regroup. Becoming engrossed in your hobbies can be like meditation, in that you’re fully absorbed in what you’re doing. That break time can help you feel refreshed and less stressed. According to some studies, hobbies can provide almost immediate stress relief.

• Lower cortisol – In one study, cortisol levels were more than 70% lower after making art. Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone, which is produced in the adrenal glands. Cortisol plays a key role in the body’s “fight or flight” functioning when faced with a stressful situation. Lowering levels of cortisol in our body can help reduce stress and calm our system.

• Strengthening social connections – Whether you share your hobby with a family member and bond over putting together a model train set or you enjoy chatting with fellow crafters online, there are many ways to find healthy social outlets through hobbies.

If nobody in your family or social group shares your interests, take the opportunity to enlarge your social sphere. Try looking for meetups and online groups. If you’re just starting out in a new hobby, you may find it particularly helpful to learn from others.

Tips On Pursuing Your Hobbies

More than anything else you need to give yourself permission to spend time on hobbies, which is naturally easier said than done. Here are a few strategies for making sure you enjoy some hobby time, plus get all the mental health benefits that can come with pursuing hobbies.

1) Prioritize hobby time – Don’t leave hobby time at the bottom of your list of to-dos. Schedule your hobby time the way you would schedule a coffee with a friend.

2) Make room for hobbies – If you don’t think you’ll ever have time for hobbies, then you won’t ever find the time. Even though we all lead busy lives, we’re not always productive throughout the day. How many hours are spent doom scrolling or binging on Netflix in a week? Even if you have a full life of taking care of kids, taking time to do good things for yourself like pursuing a hobby is a great example to show your children. You may all learn something fun too.

3) Take microbreaks – While we would all love a leisurely block of time to pursue our treasured pastimes, the truth is that life doesn’t always work that way, which is okay. Don’t let it stand in your way. There are always creative ways to stay engaged with your interests, even on the go. Try listening to a podcast about your hobby for 15 minutes while driving or peruse new supplies while waiting in line at the grocery store.

Takeaway

There are many potential ways hobbies can enrich our lives. The next time you think of time spent on a hobby as time better spent doing something like cleaning the garage, consider the mental health benefits your hobby can bring. Hobby time is your time to rest and recharge from the week’s activities. The joy your hobby brings you can bring positive benefits to other parts of your life as well.

So, go pick up that hobby you’ve put aside for too long, because you deserve more joy in your life today.

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