Hobbies for Mental Health

With hobbies, we use our minds in new and creative ways.  We also use our hands or bodies--we move in new and different ways. We enter into a zone of intentionality and exploration. We meet new people or learn something new about ourself. And in the end, we have achieved something we set out to achieve.  All of these combined are actually really good for our mental health.  We change habits, thought patterns, and belief systems through small steps. And hobbies can be a part of moving us in this direction. 

Benefits of Hobbies

1) Projects get us out of our head.  One of the last places you want to reside when suffering from depression and anxiety is in your head. Ongoing, easy-to-pickup projects give us purpose, help shift negative rumination, and help alleviate boredom. At the end of the day, sometimes Netflix can be your friend. Other times it leaves you feeling under stimulated and restless.  Having a project you can easily pick up and work on both challenges and relaxes the mind.  It can also give your body a chance to take some deep breaths and get into a zone. Since what you focus on expands, moving away from stress and worries can be a much-needed break.  And sometimes moving away from a problem actually leads to a solution.  Hobbies expose our thoughts to fresh air. Hobbies also expose us to creativity, which forces our mind to think differently and move us toward emotional regulation and awareness of thoughts. 

2) A way to meet people.  It’s hard to meet new people.  It just is. Finding a commonality with people is a way to start up conversations that could lead to lasting and supportive relationships and community. Online groups can be found on Meet Up (www.meetup.com) or other online forums and local groups can be found at craft stores, libraries, and health or art studios. 

3) A finished product or result. Whether it's cultivating a garden or taking yourself to the next level in yoga, you have brought something new to the world and to yourself.  This is a reminder of the choice you took to initiate and continue in a self-care ritual. Your light shines brighter when you take good care of you, and this can be inspiring and contagious to those in your sphere. 

How do I find a hobby? 

1) What did you like to do as a child? What did your parents or grandparents enjoy doing? These can sometimes indicate what you may be naturally inclined or wired to do. If you don't remember, ask a family member who might be able to remember what you loved filling your time with. Looking at old pictures may also help with this. 

2) What do you find yourself admiring online or on other peoples’ blog?  Have you ever said “I’d love to do that if I had the time, money, know-how, etc?” This could be pointing you in a direction of natural interest as well as something that will keep your interest over time. 

3) Ask current friends or co-workers.  Enlist the help of those who know you best to share what they might see you being interested in.  

What are some hobby ideas?

  • Bike riding
  • Macrame
  • Painting/watercolor
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Antique buying/selling
  • Cooking
  • Volunteering
  • Yoga
  • Photography
  • Knitting
  • Music 
  • Hiking
  • Sewing
  • Cross-stitch
  • Embroidery

Whatever you chose, look at enlisting in a hobby as a gift to yourself and an act of self-care.  You never know where it could take you, who you could meet, or how it could assist you in reaching the goals you have set--mind, body, and spirit.