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Finding a hobby can improve your mental health

20 March, 2020
Here’s how finding a hobby will improve your mental health

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, 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.

Creativity and mental wellbeing

A 2016 study in BMC Public Health found that Australians adults engaging in artistic hobbies for over 100 hours a year had significantly better mental health than those engaging in less.

What to take away: Engaging in an artistic hobby for two hours a week may improve your mental wellbeing.

In a 2016 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology, 658 young adults took part in a daily diary recording how much of their time they spent on creative exercises. They wrote down how often they felt positive moods (joy, alertness, interest) and negative moods (anger, fear, contempt, nervousness, anxiety). The study found that the young adults who spent more time on creative activities had more positive moods. 

What to take away: Everyday creativity may improve your mood.

Team sports and mental wellbeing

Apart from the physical benefits of exercise, participating in a team sports can also boost your mental wellbeing. A 2015 study in the Journal of Leisure Sciences found that people participating in team sports were less likely to experience depression, stress and anxiety. In fact, 25-34-year olds not participating in regular team sports are twice as likely to experience depression over a 12-month period.

Some of the other benefits of team sports include:

  • increase in social connection
  • lower stress levels
  • increase in ability to deal with setbacks
  • better quality sleep

It’s always best to check with your GP before you start a new sport or exercise. Once you have the all clear, some team sports to try include:

  • basketball
  • netball
  • volleyball
  • rugby
  • water polo
  • rowing
  • cricket
  • soccer

How to find a hobby

Finding a hobby can be tricky. Long hours at work, family obligation, and a lack of inspiration and motivation can seem like impossible obstacles. Here are our favourite strategies:

Revive old passions

Got a Fender gathering dust in your wardrobe? Maybe there’s some paintbrushes in a cupboard somewhere? 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.

Try one new activity 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
  • researching local businesses and sports clubs
  • visiting a crafts store
  • checking out educational courses
  • going 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. If you’re feeling bored, or actively searching for a distraction, you could be using that time 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.

Try searching the below sites for volunteer roles:

Good luck, and happy hobbying!

If you need more support

If you’re struggling with your mental health, you might find some of the follow services helpful.

Help online or over the phone

If you or someone close to you needs help now, there are phonelines and websites available.

For immediate help in a crisis:

For general mental health support:

Sources

https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-015-2672-7

https://www.cbhs.com.au/health-well-being-blog/blog-article/2017/06/22/how-you-benefit-from-volunteer-work-(and-where-you-can-find-it)

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/online-forums/staying-well/writing-as-helpful-hobby

https://headtohealth.gov.au/meaningful-life/purposeful-activity/hobbies

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049

https://www.abc.net.au/life/benefits-of-volunteering-to-community-and-society/11075998

https://www.volunteeringaustralia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016-Census-reveals-Australians-still-committed-to-volunteering.pdf

https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/bcb2c789-d1eb-4107-b26c-2f4a4f5a9e1d/aihw-australias-welfare-2017-chapter4-4.pdf.aspx

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 healthcare professional.

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