The benefits of hobbies for your mental health

When is the last time you thought about your hobbies? Maybe in a job interview, the company asked what you like to do in your free time. Or maybe at the beginning of a relationship, your date tried to pick your brain at dinner to see if you’re compatible. Well, hobbies are more important in your life than simply having something to say about yourself when prompted. Studies have shown that having hobbies help lower stress and improve mood (1). Read on to learn what constitutes a hobby, how to pick yours, and what they do for your mental health.

What is a hobby?

There are many activities that can be described as a hobby. By definition, a hobby is, ”an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure." Pay special attention to the last part: for pleasure. You should be enjoying your hobby. You don’t need to join a club just because your friend enjoys it - find what brings you the most joy.

Hobbies can be split into four main categories (2): Physical, Cerebral, Creative, and Community-Oriented.

Physical hobbies are activities that will get your body moving. This could be a typical activity, like running and walking, or get more obscure, such as rock climbing or scuba diving. People may just think of these activities as way to exercise, but they are also enjoyable ways to free your mind.

Cerebral hobbies are activities that help work your mind. This includes doing puzzles, reading, visiting museums, and any other activity that activates concentrated thought. 

Creative hobbies are the activities that typically require some artistic thought to complete. This includes many activities, such as cooking, painting, journaling, and playing an instrument. 

Community-oriented hobbies are activities that involve people getting together to socialize, or even just do an activity in the company of others. This could include participating in a book club, doing charity work, or joining an improv team.  

How can I find a hobby?

Okay, so now you may have some ideas of what hobbies you’d like to pick up. Now, how do you get started? Here are some tips for starting a hobby, or even choosing which one you’d like to do.

Facebook Groups-

Social media is a powerful tool, especially when it comes to trying something new. There are Facebook Groups for everything under the sun. Joining a community can help you get some pointers if you’re just starting out. For example, a company called Let’s Make Art has a Facebook group called “Let’s Make Art: Watercolor.” People often share tips for newcomers, as well as posting their own artwork as inspirational pieces. 

 

Online Quizzes-

Sometimes, having an abundance of options is the most overwhelming thing about starting something new. If you like the idea of a handful of hobbies, how will you ever commit to choosing one to start with? Online quizzes, like ones from Buzzfeed and FindCourses.co, can help narrow down what you may enjoy trying out. With so many great possibilities, why not let a personality test choose your fate?

 

Put it on the calendar-

Maybe you’re free every Wednesday night, or you have a set time to relax on Sunday mornings. Make an effort to try something new on one day each week. Companies like ClassPass can give you a lot of freedom if you’re not looking to commit to one single activity. You can get discounted rates on yoga one week, and boxing the next. This is also a great option if you’d like to bring a friend along. You can trade off who gets to choose the class each week!

 

What mental health benefits do hobbies provide?

If it’s not clear, hobbies are meant to be fun. You should be enjoying the time you spend doing them, as well as looking forward to the next chance you have to do them again. There are a hanndful of mental health benefits you’ll benefit from when you choose a hobby, but here’s a few to highlight (3).

Less stress-

Yep, that book you unwind with or the yoga class you like to start your day with really do reduce your stress levels. Having hobbies is linked to being better able to deal with stressful events, as well lower levels of depression.

 

Happiness-

Doing things that make you happy is good for your mental health (and just feels good in general!). Having hobbies can help people find more meaning in life, as well as being satisfied with life overall. 


Work performance-

Wait, I thought hobbies were supposed to be related to your leisure time?  While hobbies are done in your free time, they still effect you during your working hours. Hobbies can help you find creative solutions to problems you may encounter at work. Plus, hobbies will encourage your mind to unwind from the stressors you may face at your 9-5.

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