Find your thing – the best hobbies for your mental health

We’ve all heard the saying that ‘every man needs a hobby’ – it’s as well worn as a holey pair of socks! However, recent studies have revealed that there is some truth to it.

Research done by the Australian Psychological Society has shown that 4 out 5 people with hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress, depression and low mood.

Why is this? When we take part in a hobby that we enjoy, chemical messengers in the brain (known as neurotransmitters) are released – such as dopamine, a chemical that helps us feel pleasure. These feel-good chemicals can then make us want to do the hobby again, and feel more motivated to do so.

Clearly, hobbies have a real benefit – so here are some of the most rewarding hobbies out there. Go find your ‘thing’!

Learn an instrument

Your neighbours may not enjoy your musical exploits at first, but learning how to play an instrument can be one of the most rewarding things a person can do.

There’s a plethora of options out there for beginners, no matter the instrument you choose. From free online books, to specialist teachers on youtube. The real joy is that you’ll never stop improving – there’s always something new to learn, so the sense of progression is very strong.

There’s even a social side to explore – forming a band can be a lot of fun, even if you only ever perform in the garage!

Pick up a camera

Perfectly capturing a moment in time is no mean feat, but it can be so satisfying when you pull it off. Whether it’s the perfect landscape composition, or a candid snap of a friend, photography can be a very gratifying pastime.

Nowadays, it’s incredibly easy to pick up – most of us have a decent camera built into our phone, and photo editing becomes more accessible each year, thanks to the popularity of apps.

It’s not just a solitary experience either – there are many photography clubs out there, as well as online communities that can help guide your learning.

If you find that you’re enjoying yourself, you can always invest in a decent DSLR camera – which can open up a whole new world of photography techniques, such as long exposures to capture light and star trails, or shallow depths of field for eye-catching portraits. The possibilities are truly endless.

Cook up a storm

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who spend a little time on something creative each day, tended to have a stronger feeling of happiness. Being creative doesn’t mean you need to be a great artist though – cooking is a great way to get creative on a daily basis. 

Learning new recipes and trying out fresh techniques can give a similar sense of satisfaction as learning an instrument – even more so if the food goes down well with your family and friends!

The kitchen can also be a useful form of escapism. Every step of a recipe demands your full attention, so as your slicing, frying, chopping, rolling or stirring, you’re fully present in that moment.

As with other hobbies – there are plenty of apps, books and youtube guides to help you get started. Whilst services such as HelloFresh are a nice way of introducing exciting recipes into your routine.

Work with wood

If you’ve never tried woodwork, you may be surprised to learn how deeply satisfying it can be. There’s an almost primal enjoyment to be found from turning a chunk of wood into a beautiful object.

You don’t need to be a carpenter or have fancy tools to start out either – you can find twenty minute whittling projects online, which only require one tool and a block of wood!

As with cooking, connecting with your inner Ron Swanson can provide an engaging activity, that culminates in a real sense of achievement. It’s also a great way to conjure up birthday and Christmas presents on a budget!

Cycling

Numerous studies have pointed to the multiple benefits of keeping active. Exercise can promote better sleep, and releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better within yourself. Physical activity also releases cortisol, which helps us manage stress.

Getting active on a regular basis can be easier said than done though – not everyone enjoys the gym, or home workouts. This is where cycling stands apart – unlike other workouts, cycling comes with the joy of traveling, and the fun of locomotion.

There’s also a meditate aspect to the physical sensations of cycling. By focusing on the movement of your legs, the rhythm of your breathing and the wind on your face, you’re clearing your mind of the worries of the day.

Although there’s the initial cost of purchasing a bicycle, the ongoing costs are very minor, and you’ll feel yourself getting fitter every time you head out for a ride. What’s not to like?!

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