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Here's how finding a hobby will improve your mental health

30 August, 2018
Here’s how finding a hobby will improve your mental health

Finding something new to do

Your free time is special and important. Outside of work hours and your usual obligations, you can dedicate yourself to something that brings you joy, meaning, and purpose.

Hobbies come in all forms. They might be creative, or physical, or relaxing.

What separates a hobby from just doing something, like binging on a tv series, is your level of engagement.

Here’s a good rule of thumb:

If you find yourself looking at your phone instead of concentrating on the activity, it’s not a hobby. It’s a distraction from not doing anything.

Before we figure out how to find a hobby, let’s look at how having a hobby can improve your mental health.


Hobbies and mental health – the evidence

Arts engagement is correlated with better mental health

702 Western Australian adults took part in a phone survey, answering questions about their engagement with arts and hobbies, the hours they dedicated to them, and on the state of their mental wellbeing.

Those who dedicated 100+ hours a year to their arts engagement reported significantly better mental health than those with 0-99 hours dedicated.

What to take away: Engaging with your hobby for two hours a week can improve your mental wellbeing.

Source: BMC Public Health - https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-015-2672-7

Creativity promotes wellbeing

658 young adults took part in a daily diary study, recording how much of their time was spent on creative exercises, and how often they felt positive moods (joy, alertness, interest) and negative moods (anger, fear, contempt, nervousness, anxiety).

More time spent with creative activity produced higher levels of positive affect.

This is a one-direct correlation, as positive affect didn’t seem to influence the following days’ creative activities.

What to take away: Everyday creativity can improve mood.

Source: The Journal of Positive Psychology - https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049

Physical recreation can help with mental health challenges and isolation

Those participating in team sports have significantly less experiences with depression, stress and anxiety. Most notably, 25-34 year olds not participating in regular team sports are twice as likely to experience depression over a 12 month period.

Benefits of being involved in team sports are represented across all age demographics concerning depression, anxiety and stress.

Further, a metastudy of 35 articles regarding mental wellbeing and sport found participants experienced:

  • Improved physical health
  • Better sleep
  • Increased levels of energy
  • Positive moods
  • Decreased levels of hospitalisation
  • Higher involvement in social networks
  • Boosted self-esteem and confidence

What to take away: Involvement in sports has a range of health benefits, from the physical to the psychological.

Sources: Roy Morgan – Yet another reason sport is good for you! | Leisure sciences - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01490400.2015.1120168

Why do hobbies improve mental health?

There are two levels that hobbies help your mental health and wellbeing. The first are direct, coming from the actual act of performing the hobby; the second are indirect, coming from the actions that make performing the hobby possible.

Direct benefits:

  • Focusing on the task at hand
  • Physical exercise (in the case of sport)
  • Creative freedom
  • Control over how you spend your time

Indirect benefits:

  • Involvement with communities
  • Accomplishing goals
  • New experiences (like going somewhere new, learning, making new friends)
  • Sense of purpose

How to find a hobby

Finding a hobby can be tricky. Long hours at work, familial obligations and lack of inspiration and motivation can seem like impossible to overcome obstacles.

However, finding a hobby and doing a hobby require the same things: time, energy, effort, and enjoyment. Here are our favourite strategies:

Reviving old passions

Got a Fender gathering dust in your wardrobe? Maybe there’s some paintbrushes in a cupboard somewhere, tips stiff with age.

Whatever your reason for putting down your creative tools, you have one to pick them up again. Taking the time to remember why you enjoyed your past activities could bring back your interest and open you up to a world you’d left behind.

One new thing a week

Do one new activity every week, every week.

This strategy requires a little more effort, as you’ll need to research and organise time to ensure you’re meeting your goal.

Stuck for ideas? You can always try:

  • Asking friends and family
  • Visiting random forums
  • Subscribing to activity discounts and deals websites
  • Researching local businesses and sports clubs
  • Visiting a crafts store
  • Checking out skills and educational courses
  • Go to a hardware store

Time first, activity second

Feeling like you don’t have enough time can stop you dead in your tracks when it comes to hobbies. However, there are hobbies and activities you can squeeze into the odd minutes and hours of your day, like:

  • Lunch break sports and exercise
  • Reading, knitting, puzzle-solving on public transport
  • Social, turn-based video games
  • Early-morning boot-camps, yoga or running teams

To find out when you might be able to fit in a hobby, try to be conscious of your time during the day. When you’re feeling most bored, or actively searching for a distraction, is probably time you can use to indulge in a hobby.

Volunteering

Helping others can be the best hobby of all. Think about what skills you have, and how you might be able to use those skills to help other people.

From there, you can post your availability to social media, or try to find volunteer organisations that need your talents.

Good luck, and happy hobbying!


All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies. For full terms, click here.

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