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How Do Hobbies Help Improve Your Mental Health?

Hobbies are often associated with people who have a lot of time to spend on leisurely activities. The idea of gardening for two hours or scrapbooking daily can trigger anxiety for people with already full schedules but the opposite is true. People with busy, stressful lives may actually need hobbies more than the average person.

We tend to drop hobbies as we get older because of the different responsibilities of adulthood—like jobs or raising families. Not just that—but many of us have limited understandings about the purpose of hobbies. For various reasons, many people never pick up or stick with a hobby in the first place.

Despite the influence of grade school sports or the well-intended push from parents who wanted nothing more than for you to grow up as a well-rounded individual, hobbies are not limited to the athletically inclined or future world-class violinists. In fact, they aren’t really limited in any context; hobbies can be anything. However, it’s worth noting that a hobby like running would offer significantly more health benefits than video gaming, for example.

A hobby is something we’re allowed to be choosy about. The important thing is that you eventually choose something and do it often, as hobbies help keep you mentally healthy - no matter your age.

Hobbies can help you destress and improve your mental health in several ways. Stressful events in life can be tough on us psychologically as well as physically. It’s been proven that hobbies help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress because they serve as mental breaks that help us cope through increased focus and routine. Doing something creative, for example, forces you out of your head for a while because it requires concentration. With elevated endorphin levels and decreased cortisol levels in the body, hobbies even make dealing with daily stressors more manageable.

Research has also linked hobbies to an increase in happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and self-worth. One of the biggest reasons hobbies are good for your mental health is that they provide you with a sense of purpose. And your parents were right about hobbies making you more well-rounded, as they bring a sense of stability and balance into our lives.

You don’t need to have a natural ability to perform the hobby you choose. However, there’s no denying that putting time toward something makes you better at it. As you continue to learn, progress, and improve, you will inevitably develop greater overall confidence.

If you have depression, it may be hard to get motivated about anything at all. But hobbies can reduce feelings of fatigue and combat low, lethargic moods, ultimately providing a sense of accomplishment. According to the American Psychological Association, hobbies can combat loneliness through social interactions, friendships, and hobbies that draw people together.

Furthermore, retired people and seniors who have hobbies are less likely to develop depression. They’ve also been linked to a decreased risk of dementia.

A hobby doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy - there’s no need for special equipment or formal training and classes. Even spending just 10 minutes per day on something you enjoy is enough time to get started and reap some benefits.

Here are a few ideas for hobbies you can try to get inspired:

  • Read books or journals. Both have similar effects. If you struggle to concentrate or have depression or anxiety, you might find one more manageable or beneficial.

  • Start a gratitude practice. One way to be mindful and appreciative of what you have is to write down three things you’re grateful for each day in your life. This can help relieve stress and anxiety as well as improve brain function.

  • Get outdoors. Time spent in nature yields tremendous benefits for one’s mental health. Outdoor hobbies might also involve hiking, birdwatching, or gardening.

  • Take up knitting. Knitting has been shown to increase activity in the brain’s “happy frequency.” Alternatively, coloring, scrapbooking and painting yield similar benefits.

The bottom line about hobbies is that individuals who have them tend to be happier than those who don’t. So what will your hobby be?

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