Many of us consistently feel the stress of having too much to do. Having a self-care routine can help relieve stress, and one part of that routine is having a hobby. But how do hobbies help mental health?
According to research conducted by the American Psychological Association, the drag of having too much time on our hands can also negatively affect us. The good news is that hobbies are a great way to spend our time! They keep our minds busy and stimulated, which benefits our mental health. They also help with stress relief.
“Engaging in fun recreational activities helps us avoid boredom and burnout, both of which can lead to depression,” Svetlana Famina, MD, a psychiatrist with the behavioral health institute at Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital, shares. “Hobbies distract us from negative thoughts, which may generate negative feelings that lead to mental illness.”
“Hobbies provide a break from the routine, an outlet which everyone needs and something to look forward to,” Dr. Famina adds. “They help us unwind from the stressful day and calm our minds, therefore decreasing anxiety. They also keep us in a good physical and mental shape, which improves body image and self-esteem.”
Hobbies that promote physical health can help you in many ways. Activities such as running, taking a walk, playing sports or attending a workout class have numerous health benefits and generally improve your mental health and well-being. Research shows that having an active hobby can improve your blood pressure, reduce stress and help you sleep better. Additionally, exercise boosts serotonin levels, a “feel-good chemical” that helps you feel happy and more calm.
Hobbies also provide us with an opportunity to be mindful. Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment while acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. The focus that many hobbies demand lends itself to mindfulness.
“Being present in the moment is a great way to distract our minds from our busy lives. It helps fight mental and physical fatigue, which is crucial for our mental health,” Dr. Famina says.
Another benefit of hobbies is the promotion of creativity and self-expression. Any creative process can be very therapeutic for the mind, whether it is drawing, sculpture, quilting or writing. It generates a sense of accomplishment and reward, which boosts our self-esteem and creates positive emotions.
Hobbies also help eliminate feelings of loneliness, which is a major factor that contributes to depression. When we attend group exercise, play team sports, join dance sessions or participate in art classes, for example, we meet new people with similar interests. This allows us to make social connections and new friends.
Despite all the known benefits, starting a new hobby may be difficult for some people.
“Many people feel anxious about starting something new, which is normal and can be managed,” Dr. Famina says. “Reach out to your family and friends and start something together. This can also strengthen your relationships with loved ones.”
Learn more about behavioral and mental health services we offer at Mercy Health.