10 fun hobbies that can also boost your mental health

More than a quarter of adults say they feel so anxious that it stops them doing the things they want to do some or all of the time, which is why this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is dedicated to the theme of anxiety.

From 15 to 21 May, people from around the world will come together to raise awareness about mental health issues and what can be done to help your mind. So, why not take part by picking up a new hobby?

While you’re engaging in something you enjoy, your body relaxes and your cortisol levels drop, which reduces stress. And hobbies could also be an effective way to improve your self-esteem, as completing projects or milestones rewards you with a fantastic sense of accomplishment.

If you’re interested in starting a new hobby to boost your mental health, consider what would be most beneficial to you. Perhaps you want to challenge yourself, or you want to find a way to make new friends? Whatever you’re looking for, you can find some inspiration on this list.

1. Gardening

As the weather gets warmer, spending time outside can give a significant boost to your mental state. Being in sunlight encourages serotonin production, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness.

While you’re outside, allow yourself to get dirty and reconnect with nature. Allocating a few hours of your week to work on your garden or in your local allotments means you are guaranteed some time to yourself to decompress. 

Seeing the seeds you’ve planted bloom into beautiful flowers or grow into delicious fruits and vegetables is incredibly rewarding, and can even encourage you to eat more healthily.

2. Walking

Whether you are taking your dog out for a stroll in your local park or embarking on hours-long hikes, walking comes with brilliant benefits for your physical and mental health.

On the physical side, walking can reduce your stress levels by improving the quality of your sleep and lowering your blood pressure. Additionally, there is research to suggest that walking improves your creativity and productivity levels, which can allow you to feel more prepared to face challenges.

3. Puzzles

Puzzles have been around for hundreds of years, and there are endless different types of problem-solving games for you to get stuck into, such as:

  • Crosswords
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Sudokus

Not only can they enhance your brain function and memory, but research also suggests that puzzles can help people improve their concentration.

There are plenty of different places for you to solve puzzles once you’ve found a type that you enjoy. If you want to start with a variety to discover your preferences, try the puzzles in the games section of a newspaper, or download a puzzle app on your phone.

4. Journalling

Writing down your thoughts is an excellent method of processing your feelings. If you are artistically inclined, you may choose to spend time decorating your journal, perhaps by adding drawings. But at its bare minimum, journalling doesn’t require much effort, and doesn’t need to take more than 15 minutes a day.

There are two types of journalling: reflective journalling, where you write about your day, and gratitude journalling, where you record what you’re grateful for.

Either option will encourage you to focus on the positive aspects of your life, while also helping you to identify what is causing you stress so you can handle it better.

5. Fishing

As it requires you to spend a few hours enjoying nature, fishing is one of the most relaxing hobbies out there. It encourages you to live in the moment and enjoy the peace of the outdoors while you are waiting for a fish to bite, and is a brilliant way to improve your patience.

6. Cooking

Both cooking and baking can do wonders for your mental health. Comforting yourself with your favourite food can bring great emotional relief, and as your skill improves and the variety of recipes you’ve tried increases, you gain the satisfaction of being more self-reliant.

Cooking also comes with benefits for your physical health, as you are in control of all the ingredients you are using. And if you choose to share your dishes, you can deepen your connections with your friends as a bonus.

7. Exercise

There are many forms of exercise, but whether you choose to play by yourself or in a team, taking part in a sport is amazing for your mental health.

Going to the gym provides a healthy outlet for any frustrations or negative emotions you have been holding on to, which can be cathartic to release. And the act of exercising releases endorphins, which lowers your risk of anxiety and depression.

If you choose to play in a team, you get the added benefit of social interaction, which can improve your confidence and brings you into a supportive community.

8. Reading

Reading is the ultimate form of escapism. Being engrossed in a good book can distract you from any negative or intrusive thoughts you may be having as it whisks you away to another world for a while.

Allowing yourself to let go of your daily stresses for a few hours gives you a chance to relax and lowers your heart rate, which is good for both your mental and physical health.

If you don’t think you have time to incorporate more reading into your life, try listening to an audiobook while you work or do chores instead. Or if you want someone to hold you accountable, try joining a book club so you have a deadline for when you need to finish the book by.

9. Music

Listening to upbeat music can boost your mood and lower stress and anxiety levels. 

Picking up an instrument brings even more benefits, as it adds the satisfaction of learning a new skill. And if you want to bring a social aspect into your love of music, try joining a choir or band, or going to a concert with your friends.

10. Art

There are many different art forms out there for you to learn about, and a million different online tutorials and classes you can join to aid you in your artistic journey. If you need some ideas, you could take up:

  • Book binding
  • Crocheting
  • Embroidery
  • Painting
  • Woodworking

Whether or not you master the skill doesn’t matter; what matters is that you enjoy expressing your creativity. But if you’re really struggling with the frustration of learning something new, try painting or colouring by numbers instead – it allows you to be artistic while also providing guidance, so that the end result is guaranteed to be satisfying. 

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