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How Can Hobbies Improve Mental Health?

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

How Hobbies Improve Mental Health: Jump-Start Your Happiness By Finding Something Fun To Do

Stress and anxiety can go hand in hand with daily life. The hustle and bustle of work, family dynamics, and relationships can leave you searching for solace.

Taking time to feel creative and rejuvenate is crucial for maintaining a healthy state of mind. Beyond being ways to pass the time or merely recreational activities, hobbies can be powerful tools for improving mental health and achieving a balanced life.

This article delves into the impact that hobbies can have on mental health and how they may serve as therapeutic outlets to alleviate stress, boost creativity, and foster a greater sense of purpose.

Woman in white clothes meditation near a body of water.

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How Might Hobbies Improve Our Mental Health?

There are compelling reasons to support that incorporating hobbies into your daily routine can lead to a happier and healthier existence; from the psychological benefits of engaging in hobbies to the studies that show their positive effects on the brain.

Reduced stress, enhanced well-being, a sense of community, and improved physical health are other ways engaging in hobbies may boost your mental health.

In fact, research shows that having a hobby is linked to lower levels of depression — and may even prevent depression for some.

But, it’s important to remember that hobbies are not a cure-all for mental health. Health is holistic and there are hundreds of factors that contribute to a balanced state of mind.

We’ll take a look at five examples of how hobbies improve mental health below.

5 Ways Hobbies May Improve Mental Health

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but chronic stress can have detrimental effects on mental and physical well-being. Hobbies have a unique way of:

  • Redirecting our focus

  • Providing an emotional respite from life's challenges

  • Offering a healthy way to release pent-up tension and promote relaxation

Participating in a hobby can even reduce cortisol levels and trigger the release of endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers.

#1: Hobbies May Enhance Your Sense of Well-Being

Reading, running, fishing, pickleball — whether your pastimes are physical in nature or offer a more mental escape, hobbies may give you a life purpose or a sense of joy that you don’t feel in everyday life.

Feeling that unique sense of purpose and joy can be a direct way to improve mental health.

#2: Hobbies Have Been Shown To Reduce Stress

A study that examined the health benefits of the enjoyable activities individuals participate in voluntarily in their free time found that higher PEAT (Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test) scores were associated with:

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Lower total cortisol

  • Lower waist circumference

  • Lower body mass index; and

  • Perceptions of better physical function

Whether it's painting outside, gardening, or hiking in nature, hobbies have a unique way of redirecting our focus and providing an emotional respite from the stresses of everyday life.

Taking your physical activity outdoors or, better still, closer to nature can offer many benefits, including improved mood and better focus. You may find that even spending just 10 minutes outdoors can make a difference.

#3: Hobbies Foster a Sense of Community

Humans are fundamentally social creatures who need social interaction to maintain mental well-being.

Enjoying something you love is often made better when you can share in it. Some hobbies offer a shared love and an opportunity to foster a sense of community derived from that shared interest.

Hobbies that include community might be:

  • Book clubs

  • Knitting clubs

  • Running clubs

  • And many more

Having a sense of community is good for your mental health. Being part of a group can influence both your social and emotional well-being.

A 2022 study found that better social connectedness was associated with lower risks of subsequently diagnosed depression and anxiety, and reports of feeling lonely were associated with increased risks of depression and anxiety.

A group of young women knitting at a cafe.

#4: Hobbies That Promote Physical Health May Also Improve Mental Health

While some hobbies are more mentally stimulating, other hobbies are entirely physical — like running, rock climbing, hiking, bodybuilding, golfing, etc.

Physical activity has great benefits for mental health.

Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to:

  • Decrease overall levels of tension

  • Elevate and stabilize mood

  • Improve sleep

  • Improve self-esteem

Even five minutes of physical exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.

#5: Creative Hobbies Can Have a Positive Effect on Mood

Both creativity and well-being are essential to humankind. A 2021 study replicated the positive relationship between creativity and well-being and demonstrated that creativity is beneficial to subjective well-being.

Even if you’re not an expert, trying your hand at creative activities like songwriting, painting, bracelet making, or playing a musical instrument has been shown to increase positive moods.

Spending even just a few hours a week can help improve your mental health and promote healthy well-being.

Strategies To Help You Create New Hobbies

If you aren’t someone who already has a list of hobbies they enjoy and you’re interested in finding some to help you boost your mental health, here are a few ways you can start brainstorming what hobbies to try.

Think About What You Really Like To Do

If you’re feeling a little stumped trying to figure out what activities bring you true joy, it’s okay. Some people just aren’t aware of what they’re into.

Start by thinking about what you like to do — maybe it’s watching Netflix, watching YouTube tutorials, or thrifting. Everyone has likes, so start from there and think about how you can turn your likes into a hobby.

Even something as seemingly passive as watching Netflix can be turned into something more involved. You could write TV show reviews, create social media groups, or host a local meetup to go see newly released box office movies and discuss them afterward.

You can turn anything into something that feels purposeful, involves other people, or brings out your creative side.

Imagine What the Best Version of You Would Do

This could be something you like to do currently or something you’d like to get into.

If you’ve experienced depression or are currently in a tough emotional space, picture the version of yourself that makes you proud. The future, and best, version of yourself.

What would that person like to get into?

Maybe you’re in a bit better shape and found a hobby in hiking or camping. Or, maybe, you took up guitar and now play at your local brewery on Saturdays.

The bottom line is — don’t be afraid to begin or to try a few different things until something clicks. After all, how will you know whether you like it or not unless you give it a try?

An african american woman holding a camera in a green field.

3 Ways To Make Time for Hobbies

A common excuse people often give for not participating in hobbies is that they don’t have enough time — but you can make time for anything you really want to do.

If you need a little help to visualize how to carve out time for your hobbies, these three tips can help.

#1: Take a Long-Term Approach

It can feel overwhelming to try and change the pace of your life to fit a hobby in. While you may not be able to fit in time for your hobby every day, start by looking at the big picture.

Can you devote a few hours to your hobby on weekends? Maybe you center holidays around it or build up in increments.

For example, if you want to take up running, start with a program that begins with bi-weekly walks or light jogs and work up to 3-4 runs per week over a few months.

#2: Take Micro-Breaks

You don’t have to spend tons of time on your hobby for it to be meaningful.

Even just a few minutes here and there can make a difference in your mental health. A hobby shouldn’t become another stressor or cause of anxiety.

Remove the pressure to get better or excel, and return to the idea that you’re participating in the hobby simply because it brings you joy.

#3: Look for Patterns of Wasted Time

Be honest – how much time each day do you spend mindlessly watching TV or scrolling on your phone? One hour? Or three?

Start being mindful of how you spend your days and take that time back for something more meaningful.

Maybe you opt to leave your phone charging in the kitchen overnight and choose to read before bed instead of scrolling or take your coffee on the go for a morning walk instead of turning on the TV.

You may be surprised how much time you have for your hobbies when you really look at how you usually spend it.

How Good Bitters May Help Take Some Hobbies to the Next Level

Improving your mental health and starting a hobby can feel like a “big life change.” Routine mindfulness and introspection may be what you need to further focus on your mental health.

At Good Bitters, we take well-being seriously. That’s why we’ve designed our products to help you align with yourself for a resilient, balanced, and prolonged life.

Our Kalm Drops, a handcrafted candy infused with special natural ingredients can help you focus by stimulating your brain without overwhelming your senses.

Give Kalm Drops or Kool Balm a try while painting, drawing, meditating, or writing.

The content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

​​Disclaimer: The information on this website is taken from traditional wisdom and modern research/databases and is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to act as medical advice or to replace medical treatment. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The statements and information on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA. Please consult a knowledgeable healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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