We’re all looking for an escape from the boredom of day-to-day routines, and what better distraction than a new hobby (that you won’t give up within a week.) That’s the true challenge of picking up a hobby: sticking with it. But, hobbies aren’t just a good way to fill your free time, they also decrease stress, improve sleep and boost your serotonin levels.
Studies measuring the correlation between hobbies and mental health have found that leisure activities can provide more structure in your life and have positive benefits on depression. Mental illness affects 19% of adults, 46% of teenagers, and 13% of children each year, but unfortunately, mental health is still stigmatized. In a time where burnout, depression, and anxiety are skyrocketing, we need to focus our lens on mental health issues and provide resources for everyone that’s struggling. Hobbies are a simple way to feel better and an important step to build "fun" into your schedule, which will improve your sleep and boost endorphins.
Why hobbies are good for your health
Hobbies are good for your mental and physical health. In a study measuring the well-being of police officers, results found hobbies decreased emotional tension, relieved stress, and reduced burnout. Engaging in leisure activities that you enjoy will spice up the never-ending groundhog day that we have gotten so used to in the past year.
Better physical health
Individuals who engage in regular leisure activities have better physiological and physical health. Those who engaged in hobbies reported greater life satisfaction, engagement at work, social support, and lower depressive symptoms. Simply finding the right hobby can improve your mood and physical functioning while lowering blood pressure and stabilizing hormone levels — so why the heck not?
We know you’re busy, but there’s always time for a new hobby. While you may think a healthy habit will cut into your schedule or distract from your sleep, picking up an activity actually improves your sleep. In a Pittsburgh study, participants reported much better sleep and less trouble falling asleep after engaging in a new hobby.
In the same study, individuals had lower stress levels after engaging in a leisure activity. Hobbies can take you out of life’s chaos and replenish your energy levels when you’re feeling depleted. Those who engage in activities are better equipped to deal with stressful situations and have more positive attitudes.
Happier with hobbies
Whether it’s recreational tennis, knitting, or cooking — those who pick up a new hobby have greater life satisfaction and overall happiness. Additionally, hobbies provide structure in your life and give you a greater sense of purpose or meaning.
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Improved work performance
A study by the San Francisco State University linked creative activities outside of work to boost job performance, engagement, and satisfaction. Hobbies can be a great way to recover from the demands of work and an outlet for relaxation.
Related Post: 10 Ways to Improve Work Performance in 2021
How hobbies can boost your mood
Studies have shown a clear link between creative activities and positive effects on your mental health — reducing stress, anxiety, and mood disturbances. When you engage in a hobby you enjoy, you enter a ‘flow state’ — an increased concentration that replenishes your mind and body. This heightened state of flow will raise the level of neurotransmitters in your brain — namely, dopamine and norepinephrine — which give you energy, otherwise known as happy hormones.
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Hobbies are the best, and here’s why. Serotonin, Oxytocin, Endorphins, and Dopamine (your happy hormones) are released when engaging in hobbies.
- Serotonin release improves your digestion and sleep patterns. The role of serotonin in shaping your mood is unclear, but improving your sleep will undoubtedly bring positive changes to your mental health. Serotonin is released when you engage in recreational activities and spend time outdoors. Take a walk, work outside or go to the beach to boost your serotonin and feel the benefits.
- Oxytocin is responsible for the warm fuzzy feeling you get from friends or family, starting a new relationship, or cuddling with your dog. Human connection runs deep in the release of oxytocin, and even though many of us are unable to hug our loved ones right now, a virtual connection will still release this hormone. Organize a virtual cooking class, book club, or yoga class with those closest to you and boost oxytocin.
- Endorphins affect the same receptors as pain killers, relieving your pain and easing stress. The best way to boost your endorphins is through cardiovascular exercise, but you don’t have to sweat buckets to feel the effects. Singing, taking a cold shower, or simply eating spicy food trigger the same pain relief hormones. The key to endorphin release is stepping outside of your comfort zone, and what better way than trying a new hobby.
- Dopamine is most commonly linked to instant gratification and rewards, in which you feel a rush of pleasure. Anticipation of a reward drives you to complete things that you enjoy and increases your motivation — improving job performance and engagement. Psychologists recommend attaching rewards to hobbies, tracking your progress, and demonstrating control over one aspect of your life to boost dopamine. For example, if yoga is your new hobby, keep an entry journal to track your progress and reward yourself with a day off when you’ve mastered a new position.
How do I find a hobby (that I won’t quit)?
How do you find new interests and a hobby that won’t fade out within a few weeks? Here are a few ways to identify the hobby best suited for you.
Transform your interests into a hobby
Think about what brings you joy and transform that activity into a regular hobby. What are you interested in? How do you usually spend your time? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Take something you love and think about how you can turn it into a hobby. For example, you might love to eat good food or you’re trying a new diet — try cooking a new recipe a few times a week and turn something you love into something you can cook!
Unlock the child in you
As a kid, it felt so much easier to pick up new activities. You probably had multiple hobbies on the go at once, taking every opportunity to learn new skills. Some days you probably wish you could jump back to a time when you were spontaneous, open-minded, and everything was new. That’s how you should approach a new hobby — with a child-like mindset, in a rush to escape the #adulting nightmare.
Think of something you loved to do as a kid. Maybe that was painting, scribbling in a journal, or rollerblading around your neighborhood. All of these childhood activities can be a clue into your newest hobby. Unlock the nostalgic joys of childhood and breathe in new experiences (it sounds corny,) but it’s true!
What inspires you?
What’s something you have always wanted to do but never got the chance? Maybe you didn’t have the time or you lost motivation, whatever the reason, it’s never too late to pick up something new. Sometimes it just takes a little quest for inspiration to find a hobby you’re going to love. Take a walk through a craft store or dig through your old junk cupboards to remind yourself of what you like to do or have wanted to try.
Take a step back and reflect on what truly inspires you. What is something that you couldn’t stop thinking about? Make a list of all the things that bring you joy, and pair them with your strengths. What is your superpower? Maybe your strength is your curiosity and creativity; in that case, don’t put yourself in a box and pick a hobby that allows you to draw outside the lines — a crochet class might not be for you. If you’re a more structured thinker and need a sense of direction, try taking a class or something that challenges you to learn a new skill — pick up that yarn and a needle!
What are some new (productive) hobbies to try?
You can turn everyday activities into a hobby and easily transform productive tasks into something enjoyable. With a bit of change in attitude and interest, you can take a regular activity and find ways to make it a happy hobby.
Some people dread cooking, and if that’s you, maybe don’t make it a hobby. But, if you love to eat and don’t loath the kitchen, then sharpen your skills. Cooking can be incredibly relaxing, and the best part is you get to eat a delicious meal! Make cooking more of a hobby by trying out new recipes, branching into the baking sector, or taking a couple of cooking classes. You’ll be everyone's new favorite dinner host before you even know it!
Do you spend a lot of time daydreaming about what your home could look like? There’s nothing better than transforming your home with a new coat of paint, unique paintings, or a flashy rug and bringing together your design vision. Make a list of small home improvements you’d like to make and turn your passion for furnishing and redesigning into a hobby.
If you love to read or just simply love learning through language, you can easily turn it into a hobby. Join a book club, collect need-to-read books, start a blog or take a writing course. Reading and writing is an invaluable skill that you can grow and build while boosting your endorphins with an engaging hobby.
Exercise definitely counts as a hobby and it's great for your health! You can make exercise feel like more of a hobby by setting attainable goals, tracking your progress, and choosing a form of exercise that you truly enjoy. Whether it’s weight lifting, running, yoga, or sports, choose an activity that motivates you to reach your goals. If you played sports as a kid, maybe you want to dust off your old skills and get the gang back together for a game. However you like to exercise, just remember to make time in your schedule to incorporate it into your routine. Track your progress using Fitbit or Coach.me and find all of the best outdoor spots with All Trails.
Self-care routines (yes, this counts!)
Self-care should always be a top priority in your life, even when you feel like you don’t have any time. Simply taking 5 minutes out of each day to do something that is just for you will boost your mood and transform your day. Meditation is a great way to step back from life's chaos and improve focus and concentration. Not sure how to start meditating? Try some relaxation apps like Calm, Headspace, Mindful, or Omvana. If you can’t sit still, do something else that makes you feel relaxed and gives your brain time to refresh. Maybe it's a nightly face routine, cleaning, or playing a sport — find an activity that gives your brain time to relax.
Learn a new language
If you’re a lover of traveling or you just want to connect with people that speak alternate languages, then now is a great time to start learning. Learning a new language improves your cognitive functioning and focus. There are so many programs for language learning that gamify your progress, so you can instantly reap the rewards. Training yourself through rewards, new levels and challenges will help motivate you and boost your dopamine levels.
Pick up a new instrument
Maybe you were in a school band as a kid and have lost some of your knowledge or you’re ready to pick up something totally new, whatever the case, music is a great hobby. Playing a new instrument strengthens your corpus callosum — which bridges the gap between your right and left brain hemispheres. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with a new instrument.
Tapping into your creative side through a regular hobby will replenish your brain with new ideas and give you new perspectives. Pick up a paintbrush or a pencil and create something unique — art is whatever you want it to be — remember not to take yourself too seriously. Giving yourself a creative outlet will sharpen your focus and improve your overall motivation.
Getting outside is one of the best ways to boost your hormones and improve your mood. Gardening can be very relaxing, plus you can enjoy a beautiful garden in the summertime. If you have a plot of land or just a few empty pots, planting can be a great hobby. You can even pick up seeds at the grocery store and grow your own produce!
Reflection is the first step to a happy and healthy mind. Journaling can be done in various ways — drawing, bullet journaling, or blogging — and you get to decide how you want to design your reflection journey. If you’re not sure where to start, you can find prompts on the internet or buy a deck of reflection cards. If you prefer to journal digitally, try using Evernote, Notejoy, or Simplenote.
Do you love to plan, organize your schedule or create to-do lists? You’re not alone! If you spend a lot of time planning for your family and organizing your days, who's to say you can’t turn organization into a hobby. Try scrapbooking, bullet journaling, organizing your digital life, or creating video memories for your future self.
If you have a passion for organization, download Shift and aggregate all your email accounts, add unlimited apps, and take your digital life to the next level. You can create workspaces in Shift for all your newest projects and track the progress of your hobbies. If you feel like you don't have time for hobbies, Shift is a perfect solution for you — Shift saves you the hassle of context switching, sorting through your emails, and will give you back your time so you can focus on what really matters: you.