The Best Hobbies for Your Mental Health

The Best Hobbies for Your Mental Health

You might think you don’t have time for extracurricular activities. But you’ll want to make time once you realize what hobbies can do for you. Embracing any enjoyable leisure pursuit — from knitting to hiking to baking — helps us recharge, research shows. Think of it as an investment in your well-being.

Want to know exactly how needlepoint can help your brain? Read on for science-backed proof that your favorite hobby may be your secret to success.

Spare Time

Spare Time

This week we talk about juggling your career, family, friends, and relationships — and how to make it work (or not). Does “balance” actually exist? #whatbalance

You might think you don’t have time for extracurricular activities. But you’ll want to make time once you realize what hobbies can do for you. Embracing any enjoyable leisure pursuit — from knitting to hiking to baking — helps us recharge, research shows. Think of it as an investment in your well-being.

Want to know exactly how needlepoint can help your brain? Read on for science-backed proof that your favorite hobby may be your secret to success.

Feeling Stressed? Make Art

Feeling Stressed? Make Art

The next time you’re all wound up, remember this: Getting artsy reduces anxiety and stress, according to a Texas State University study. When researchers divided college students with similar anxiety levels into groups where some did art projects and others didn’t, the results were dramatic. The students who did the art projects — both solo and in groups — reported “significantly reduced levels of anxiety.”

You don’t need to be a gifted artist to get the benefits from this hobby: As the study states, “[a]rt can be created anywhere by anyone.” So pick up a paintbrush or even a marker and get drawing. Your masterpiece (and good feelings) await.

Get a Self-Esteem Boost By Crafting or Baking

Get a Self-Esteem Boost By Crafting or Baking

Quilting as the secret to self-confidence? That’s what Glasgow scientists learned when exploring the impact of craft projects. They found that active participants showed high self-esteem, motivation for skill development, and overall better well-being. Self-confidence soared because the hobby comes with a strong social network to provide support and encouragement.

Think making blankets isn’t for you? Try baking instead. According to a study in the The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, the act of mastering a recipe and creating an end product that people enjoy can give you confidence. (Whose doesn’t get a self-esteem boost at the sight of smiling faces when you show up with brownies?)

Exercise To Solve a Problem

Exercise To Solve a Problem

Stumped by a dilemma you just can’t solve? Work up a sweat for 30 minutes, say researchers from the National Taiwan Sport University. When subjects were given a problem to tackle, scientists found that the people who jumped on stationary bikes for half an hour were better at solving the questions than those who were assigned to sit back and read over the same time period. Lace up your sneakers and find the solution you’ve been looking for.

Feeling Down? Take Up Knitting

Feeling Down? Take Up Knitting

In one study of more than 3,500 knitters worldwide, researchers found a significant connection between knitting frequency and feelings of calmness and happiness. The benefits from knitting and purling are clear: It made respondents feel relaxed and less stressed. And people who also cultivated a community with other knitters found joy in sharing their passion. (“Frequent knitters” also reported higher cognitive functioning.) If you’re on the hunt for your own knitting community, check to see whether your local yarn shop hosts a Stitch ’n Bitch.

Up Your Work Performance By Getting Creative

Up Your Work Performance By Getting Creative

You’re far from slacking off when you indulge in non-work creative activities, according to research from San Francisco State University psychologists. In demanding workplaces, employees who take part in some sort of creative activity show more ingenuity and a willingness to go beyond their exact role. The key is to find “recovery” experiences, or activities that give you a sense of “mastery, control, and relaxation,” according to the study.

Companies should take note: Study authors encourage organizations to make employees aware of the benefits of creative hobbies (similar to how some companies have health initiatives that focus on eating well and exercising). Companies could also treat hobbies like professional development, and could provide “memberships to art studios, creative writing resources, and access to musical instruments,” the study authors say.

Burned Out? Find Your Version of Rest

Burned Out? Find Your Version of Rest

When your workload is intense, remind yourself to make time for leisure, say European researchers. After a long workday, engaging in an activity that refreshes you mentally and physically protects you from exhaustion and burnout. When you shift your thoughts to a fun leisure activity, from sports to building a fort with your kids, you can psychologically detach yourself from the issues bothering you and help your body physically recover from stress. So go enjoy your leisure time — you’ll be glad you did. 

More on Balancing Acts:
How I Pitched a 32-Hour Workweek — and Got It
How to Find Balance in 10 Easy Steps
15 Ways to Stay Connected When You Work Remotely