When the demands of life are seemingly neverending, the idea of picking up a new hobby sounds laughable. After all, there’s barely enough time in the day as it is. How can you, within good reason, make time for anything else? If you’re struggling to justify spending time on a leisurely activity, consider the fact that you’re not simply having fun. You’re also investing in your mental and physical health. Research shows that hobbies can help to protect against dementia. They have also been linked to lower blood pressure and lower stress levels. Further, many therapists advise patients that adopting a hobby can help to ease the effects of anxiety.
One study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, which followed over 100 adults as they handled daily tasks found that people who engaged in leisure activities were 34 percent less stressed and 18 percent less sad than those who did not. Further, researchers found that the activity didn’t actually matter, as long as it was something the subject found pleasure in doing.
“If we start thinking about that beneficial carryover effect day after day, year after year, it starts to make sense how leisure can help improve health in the long term,” Matthew Zawadzki, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Merced, and lead author of the paper, told NPR. “Stress causes a build-up of higher heart rate, blood pressure, and hormone levels, so the more we can prevent this overworked state, the less of a load it builds up.”
With the world turned upside down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering what hobbies are available to you that allow you to continue practicing social distancing while also giving your mind a much-needed break. Here are a few low-cost options that you can begin exploring from the comfort of your own home:
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling is a useful tool to manage anxiety and deal with overwhelming emotions. Writing can help you to gain clarity of mind by “helping you prioritize problems, fears, and concerns,” track “any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them,” and “providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors.”
Gardening, whether indoors or outdoors, can have tremendous mental health benefits for those who suffer from anxiety.
“Most of our suffering comes from trying to control things that we can’t. The more we can accept the limits of our control and the unpredictability of life, the more peace of mind we can find—and gardening is a great way to practice,” explained licensed psychologist and clinical assistant professor of psychology in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Pennsylvania, Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D., for Psychology Today. “Acceptance in the garden or elsewhere doesn’t mean giving up, of course. We bring our best efforts to what we can control, and we let go of the rest.”
One study out of Oxford University found that curling up with a good book and grappling with “challenging language” sends “rocket boosters” to our brains, which results in an improved mental state.
“Bibliotherapy, quite simply, is about books as therapy. It’s not meant to take the place of medicine, but it can complement it,” says Dr. Paula Byrne told Stylist. “Books can take you to a different place. They can relax you and calm you, and they can offer wisdom, or humor, or both.”
One study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who indulge in small creative projects, such as cooking or baking, found that they felt happier and more relaxed in comparison to participants who did not. If you hate cooking, then this suggestion obviously isn’t for you. However, if you don’t mind cooking or find enjoyment in it, then this may be a hobby worth exploring.