Hobbies are fun and they make us feel good, but they’re actually more important than you may realize. They help us unwind and relax, as well as lower our stress levels and blood pressure. Hobbies even provide mental health benefits and can help ease depression symptoms and lower the risk of developing depression by as much as 30%.
But some hobbies are better for boosting mental health than others. While there’s not one reigning champ of hobbies for mental health, these are some of the top choices. And the key is finding one that helps you relax and that you enjoy.
- Journaling - Research shows that spending as little as 15 minutes a day journaling can help reduce anxiety as it helps you work through feelings and reflect on experiences.
- Cooking - It lets you control the ingredients, which can be good for physical health, and one study finds cooking can help you relax and boost your happiness, as well as your self-confidence.
- Spending time in nature - Hobbies that get you outside, like hiking or gardening, are great for mental health because being in sunlight can boost the body’s production of the feel-good chemical serotonin.
- Art - Whatever type of creating you’re into, from painting to embroidery, can provide mental health benefits. Art can ease stress and improve self-confidence, and even if you’re not “good” at it, if you enjoy it, that’s all that matters.
- Music - Playing an instrument can give you a sense of accomplishment, as making something feels good. But don’t worry if you’re not musically inclined, just listening to music can lower stress and anxiety, as well as boost your mood.
- Reading - It can be a distraction or a form of escapism, plus reading can lower your heart rate and help you relax. And listening to books gives you the same benefits.
- Strategy games and puzzles - Crosswords, sudoku, chess and such are great for mental health, and research shows they can improve brain functioning, problem-solving skills and memory.
- Exercise - This is one of the best hobbies for both physical and mental health. Our brains are flooded with endorphins that boost mood when we exercise, plus it can lower anxiety and let out frustrations and negative emotions, too.