Why are Hobbies a Great Investment in Your Mental Health?

Why are Hobbies a Great Investment in Your Mental Health?

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By  Jenn Samson Contributing Author, a passionate  freelance writer, and editor

In case you thought hobbies were simply a way to fill up free time, think again. A study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine has found that people who engage in hobbies are 34% less stressed and 18% less depressed. They also enjoy a lower heart rate, better mood, greater relaxation and satisfaction, and a reduction in negative thinking. The researchers noted that the nature of one’s hobby doesn’t matter; whether sports, the arts, or the cinema ignite your passion, make sure to embrace your hobby; it could just help you lead a longer and happier life!

Battling the Stress Monster

Although hobbies in general reduce stress levels, each individual activity weaves its particular brand of magic. Nature activities, for instance, are particularly useful for those with stressful lives, since numerous studies have shown that they lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Carl Jung pointed to the importance that nature has for those living in ‘urban jungles’ which can make them feel isolated and insignificant. When one is walking along a lush forest, swimming in the sea, or contemplating dazzling sealife while on a dive, one is almost instantly whizzed into a mindful state; one in which simply ‘being in the here and now’ is effortless, unlike the case in daily life. Experts like Richard Louv argue that humankind’s ‘divorce from nature’ has resulted in attention deficits, an inability to focus, as well as a greater likelihood of anxiety and depression. In this sense, nature hobbies are so much more than pastimes; they are an intelligent investment that can ensure our happiness and wellbeing.

Hobbies that Boost Cognitive Ability

Many fascinating studies have shown that some hobbies, like music, can reduce chronic pain and depression, but also increase structural connectivity in the brain, helping seniors prevent cognitive decline and boosting their listening skills. Music is just one activity with this ability. Mindfulness activities have a similar effect. In a 2017 study carried out at the University of Waterloo, researchers found that even brief sessions of yoga and mindfulness meditation significantly improve brain function and energy levels. Yet another study found that arts and crafts activities can delay the development of thinking and memory problems that can lead to dementia.

Improving Work Performance

Those who work hard sometimes make the mistake of spending too many hours behind a desk and not enough doing the things they love. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that those who take part in creative hobbies, in particular, have positive work-related traits, including creativity on projects and a more enlightened attitude. Of course, sports-related hobbies can also have this effect, since those who work out regularly enjoy benefits to their mood, vitality, and sleep quality.

If one thing is clear about hobbies, it is the importance of picking on you truly love. If you haven’t had a hobby in a while, think back to your childhood. Go with the one that has always felt like enjoyment rather than work; like a special treat at the end of long day at school or work.

Jenn Samson is a freelance writer and editor. She used to work in PR but has been embracing the freelance life for many years now. Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, hiking and traveling to Europe as much as possible.

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