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Best Hobbies for Mental Health

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  • African American man meditating and listening to music in bedroom

    Maintaining your mental health can be a bit of a mystery. Does it require a positive attitude, a secret supplement, or good genetics? You may be happy to hear the key could be having a fun hobby. Studies have shown that people who have hobbies they love experience less stress and depression and have a more upbeat outlook on life. The right hobby can give you something to look forward to and keeps your mind active.

    Which hobbies are best for your mental health? Vote up the ones that bring you the biggest mood boost.

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    Music
    Senior Caucasian man in modern apartment practicing acoustic guitar

    Playing an instrument, singing, or listening to music are excellent hobbies that boost mental health. The beauty of music is that it can range from calming to invigorating and can help balance any mood. Music or voice lessons may help you process uncomfortable emotions, especially when you learn a song that perfectly expresses what you’re feeling. Playing music in a band with friends is also a great way to connect with others and relieve stress.

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    Hiking
    senior hispanic or latino man hiking

    The latest treatment that doctors are prescribing for improved mental health is unplugging from technology and spending time outside. A five-minute walk about the neighborhood will boost your mood and energy level, but a 90-minute hike in nature has been shown to reduce worrying and repetitive, negative thoughts. Plus, hiking takes you farther away from home and your day-to-day distractions. Your hike doesn’t have to be hard, but a challenging trail will give you a feeling of accomplishment that improves self-esteem.

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    Gardening
    Older African American woman kneeling down working in garden

    Watching and waiting for plants to grow encourages an optimistic attitude. Studies show that people who garden live longer, because they have something to look forward to with each change of season. Tending to a garden, large or small, also helps you clear your head and move your body. You don’t even need your own outdoor vegetable garden to get the benefits. You could volunteer at a community garden or grow houseplants indoors.

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    Dance
    Woman learning dance moves in a class

    When’s the last time you saw someone look sad when they were dancing? Shaking your groove thing isn’t just good for your heart rate, it can help relieve anxiety and depression. It’s also a fun way to connect with other people if you’re feeling lonely. Any kind of dance will work, from a solo dance party in your living room to taking tango lessons at your local ballroom dance school. (Face masks likely required during pandemic times.) Learning a new skill is a great way to boost confidence.

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    Cooking
    male partners laughing and making dinner

    Food can change our mood, but even the act of cooking can improve your mental health. Cooking is an activity to look forward to each day and it creates nourishing results you can share with others. If you aren’t a great cook or want to improve your skills, look for online classes or in-person lessons at your local cooking supply shop, grocery store, or community college. Pro tip: Play your favorite music while cooking for an extra mood boost.

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    Photography
    Little boy taking pictures of flowers

    If you’re looking for hobbies for mental health, photography makes the list as an excellent way to explore new perspectives and shift your focus. Photography can even be used as a meditation practice. Find a spot to sit and quietly observe your surroundings or raise your energy level by attending a lively event. Snap shots of what you find beautiful, joyful or interesting. Photography can also serve as a journal to monitor your mental health and moods over time.

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    Mind-Body Exercises
    Yoga with dog

    Sometimes slowing down is what you need to ease your mind and repair your mental health. Meditation is a popular go-to for calming your thoughts. However, you can get the benefits of meditation combined with movement through a mind-body exercise practice like yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong. These exercise styles work together seamlessly to provide mental and physical health benefits, such as stress reduction and reduced muscle tension. Just 10 minutes a day can have a positive effect.

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    Drawing, Painting or Sculpting
    Closeup of paint brushes in jar with person in background painting mug

    If you have an artsy side, or even if you don’t, visual art therapy can help you express emotions that may be difficult to talk about. Engaging in hands-on visual activities like sculpting, painting or sketching helps release pent-up anxiety. Studies show that creative activities produce positive emotions that produce an upward spiral of feel-good vibes. If you’re nervous about being creative, take a course in abstract art where the focus is on expression and freeform creations.

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    Writing
    Young woman wearing rings writing in journal on train

    Jotting down your thoughts and feelings is a solo hobby that can improve mental health by getting your worries down on paper. And it only requires a pen and paper. A regular writing practice can be a good way to track mental health symptoms and how you’re feeling day-to-day. If journaling isn’t your thing or writing fiction doesn’t appeal to you, try something simple like making a list of words that pop up or freewriting whatever comes to mind.

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    Team Sports and Group Activities
    Mature people stacking hands after workout

    Shared hobbies can add joy to your life and help you feel less isolated. Team sports or group activities have been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. If you’re looking for a mental health hobby that keeps you physically fit, join a softball, soccer or tennis league. A running club is another option if you like solo sports, but want to connect with others. Not feeling sporty? Look for a knitting group, book club, or group volunteer work.

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Best Hobbies for Mental Health. The River Source. https://www.theriversource.org/best-hobbies-mental-health/
  2. Purposeful activity - hobbies. Australian Government Department of Health. https://headtohealth.gov.au/meaningful-life/purposeful-activity/hobbies
  3. Pursuing a hobby can improve your mental health. Connect. https://connecthealth.org.au/enews/pursuing-a-hobby-can-improve-your-mental-health
  4. Why Is Having a Hobby Beneficial for Your Mental Health. Psychreg. https://www.psychreg.org/hobby-mental-health/
  5. Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature
  6. Participating in Activities You Enjoy. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/participating-activities-you-enjoy
  7. The health benefits of doing what you love. Thrive. https://thrive.kaiserpermanente.org/thrive-together/live-well/health-benefits-of-doing-what-you-love