Hobbies Can Improve Your Mental Health

| May 10, 2019 | Reply

Photography as a hobby, studying black and white

Contributed by Julie Morris, photos by Mary Jane Farmer

Your overall quality of life depends on your mental well-being. When you take care of this part of yourself, you are able to deal with stress more effectively. You work more productively and make more meaningful contributions to the world. When you take care of your mental health, you are able to fulfill your potential and find more joy in your life.

There are many ways we can proactively care for our cognitive selves. Many people need to seek out help during particularly tough times. That help can range from psychological evaluation to medication; it all depends on the person. However, there are some things everybody can do to improve their health. Practicing mindfulness meditation can help reduce stress and ease anxiety. Regular exercise doesn’t just keep your body fit, it also makes you feel better as it releases endorphins into your system.

Another way to maintain your mental health is to pick up a healthy hobby. Hobbies help you add a bit of structure to your life. Humans thrive when there is routine in their lives. A hobby also gives a person a sense of purpose and motivation. When you complete something or learn something new, there is a feeling of accomplishment that boosts self-esteem and increases happiness. Picking up a hobby can help someone recovering from a mental illness -— like addiction— refocus, which helps the overall healing process. Here are a few easy-to-begin hobbies that help people with their overall mental well-being.

Making Art

Tapping into your creative side and getting a little messy with an art project is a great way to create a visual representation of the emotions you are feeling, as well as tell your story. We all have a narrative to tell, and for some, it is much easier to express using mediums such as paint, clay, chalk, and markers. The beauty in creating art is that there is no right or wrong way to do it, so it is a hobby that you control and cultivate on your own. Just be sure you’ve created a space where you can really let loose without worrying about making a mess, and keep your supplies organized — clutter can cause stress, and this should be an area that makes you feel free and inspired.

Playing an Instrument

Picking up an instrument not only brings music into your life, but it helps your brain function more efficiently. Studies show that playing an instrument can help prevent dementia and even depression. Researchers at the University of St. Andrews found amateur musicians possess sharper minds and are quicker to correct mistakes than non-musicians.

Fingerpickin’ as a hobby

Playing music also offers social perks. Socializing is necessary for mental health recovery. Playing music helps you connect with people, whether you join a band, play for others, or just talk with fellow musicians.

Dancing

For many people, dancing is a celebration of life. It combines the feel-good hormones of exercise with the cognitive benefits of music. Joining a dance class puts you in a community of people who are all working to achieve a goal while also having a fun time.

Gardening

Psychologists have long lauded gardening for its ability to help us heal. When you get out in the garden and get your hands dirty, you get a healthy dose of mood-boosting vitamin D on top of some light exercise. Gardening also gives a person a sense of responsibility and connects them to other living things. Reconnecting with the earth promotes mindfulness and can help shape a healthier perspective on the world. Some experts even praise gardening for reminding us about the cycle of life, which helps us cope with the anxiety we feel when we think about death.

Cooking

Cooking is a great way to incorporate a hobby into a busy lifestyle. Everyone needs to eat, and it’s universally accepted that cooking your own food is healthier than dining out. Making yourself cook your meals instills much needed structure in your life while also allowing room for creativity.

Writing

Yet another form of visual expression is writing, whether it is journaling, blogging, or storytelling. Taking up a pen and paper (or sitting down at your computer) can help you get out those thoughts bouncing around in your head. You can write about your day, make a plan for how you are going to tackle a particular project, or even write the first chapter of a book. Perhaps you could use a daily journal or blog as a means of checking in with your feelings and emotions to identify any problem areas and keep track of your progress as you work through them.

Dancing — starting at an early age.

Reading

If you are looking for a way to truly escape for a brief moment from your busy schedule and accompanying stress, taking the time to get lost in a book is the ticket. It seems that when we are younger, we are so eager to read, but time is of the essence in the adult world, and reading falls by the wayside. Pick up a good book, or join a book club for a little extra socialization. You can even use this new hobby as a way of learning about another one, or simply expand your knowledge on a particular subject that interests you.

Caring for your mental health is necessary for a happy, fulfilled life. Incorporating a hobby into your daily routine is an easy and enjoyable way to care for your cognitive self. A hobby helps a person refocus in times of recovery, so the process is easier and more enjoyable. Choosing a new hobby doesn’t have to be difficult. Whether you are picking up a new instrument or taking the time to cook for yourself each day, a hobby helps you lead a healthier life.

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