We all have hobbies, but more often than not we think of them as ways to have fun rather than ways to better ourselves. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this – we all need to have ways of enjoying ourselves! However, it’s also true that plenty of fairly popular hobbies can both help us have fun and help to improve our health and wellness. And we’re not just talking about reframing yoga or exercise as a hobby. We’re talking about just-for-fun hobbies that can double as solid gold from a mental health and wellness standpoint.
These are five you might want to give some real thought to if this general idea intrigues you.
1. Playing An Instrument
Playing an instrument absolutely has to be included on any list like this, because the health perks of this particular hobby have been documented fairly thoroughly over time. There are actually numerous psychological benefits of music even when you consider just listening to it. It can reduce stress, improve memory, lift the mood, and do all sorts of other little things that are great for the mind (and blood pressure!). Playing music can bring about many of these same benefits, as well as some others such as improved comprehension and memory. Some even argue that it can be used to combat anxiety.
2. Playing Poker
Playing poker is another fairly popular hobby, and one that can take many different forms. Some might imagine it to mean visiting casinos and playing in real poker rooms; others might imagine games around kitchen tables with friends. Various online poker sites may also come to mind, as they’ve become legal in parts of the U.S. again and now offer perhaps the most convenient opportunities to get into the game. Regardless of how you play though, the benefits are similar: Poker can improve concentration and skills of observation, train us to make decisions and manage money, and even help with managing emotions.
Gardening is one hobby more people might actually engage in specifically because they feel as if there’s some sort of mental, or even semi-spiritual benefit to it. Well, those people would be right. In addition to being considered a form of exercise, gardening has been proven to lower stress levels, and in a more general sense can help one to maintain a calm, positive state of mind. Some studies have also indicated that a regular gardening habit can lower one’s risk of experiencing dementia later in life.
Cooking can actually have some of the same benefits as gardening, which speaks to the idea that both are vaguely meditative hobbies. It can be a simple way of generating a feeling of pride and accomplishment, which is important for all of us to do from time to time. Additionally, direct mental health aside, cooking at home is by and large considered likely to contribute to a healthier lifestyle. You’re better able to control what goes into your meals, and can thus exert greater control over your full nutritional routine – all because you happen to enjoy cooking!
Reading is a hobby that a lot of people drop at one point or another, in part because it’s time consuming, but also because they simply don’t know what to read. This is no one’s fault; typically, growing up, we read old classics in school and the occasional thriller or mystery or romance just for fun, but we’re never really taught where to look to pursue our reading interests more broadly. For this, we’d recommend simply looking online, where you can find lists of books by era, by genre, or even by general interest according to what you’ve read and enjoyed before. From there you can pick up reading, and enjoy a massive range of benefits. Regular reading can calm your mind, improve your writing and communication abilities, help you with memory, and generally expand your knowledge.
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