Guest Post by Maria Cannon
For many people, having a hobby is a way to reduce stress and fill the days after work is over. But what you may not know is that hobbies can evoke creativity, boost mood and self-confidence, and help raise positivity and mental health levels. These days, it can be difficult to find positivity in the world; a single scroll through your newsfeed can darken your entire day. Having a hobby that you enjoy doing can be a great way to feel better about yourself, your life, and your relationships.
The wonderful thing about most hobbies is that they can help with depression and other mood disorders. In fact, art therapy is often used to treat depression in individuals who are battling substance abuse or PTSD.
There are many different ways you can get creative or simply find something you’re good at and enjoy doing. Here are a few of the best ways having a hobby can help you feel better.
1. It can help you get social
Particularly if you suffer from depression, it can be difficult to be social sometimes. One of the symptoms of depression is withdrawal from friends and family, and many individuals find it hard to get motivated when it comes to spending time with others. Having a hobby that you can share with others is a great way to get out there, meet new people, and spend time with people who enjoy the same things you do. Consider joining your local MQG to get out of the house once a month and meet with people who love the same things you do.
2. It can teach you about your community
Hobbies can offer the opportunity to discover new things about your community. For example, if you’re a hiker, you’re in the perfect position to find new places to explore. If you enjoy the art of upcycling, try visiting salvage yards in unfamiliar parts of town. If you enjoy quilting, check out shop hops in your area or road trip to a new fabric store. Better yet, take a few friends with you as you explore local quilt shops.
3. It can boost self-esteem
Finding something you’re good at—quilting, drawing, singing, dancing, creative writing—can be enormously helpful in boosting your self-esteem and can help you find new things to like about yourself. There’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you finish a quilt (particularly your first one) or when you complete a big knitting project. Not only does this make you feel good about your abilities, it keeps you coming back for more.
4. It can help you unplug
It can be difficult to unplug these days, between smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Staying connected all the time can be damaging to your mood and can even lead to sadness and depression, so it’s important to find ways to fill your time that don’t include a constant update of your newsfeed. Sewing is a great way to unplug. Whether it’s by machine or by hand, you can allow yourself to fall into your project. And because both of your hands will be busy with a needle and thread, you will be less inclined to answer texts or emails. If you’re new to sewing, here are a few great tips on how to get started.
5. It can get you active
It can be hard to find the time to exercise every day, but it’s important to stay active and get in a workout as often as possible. Having a hobby that gets you moving can help you stay active and improve your health, as well as reduce stress.
6. It can help you give back
There are many hobbies that help you give back to your community or to the charity of your choice; in fact, if you enjoy planning events and bringing people together, consider joining a fundraising group that will allow you to give back. There are quick and easy ways to raise awareness and spread your message through social media and email outreach. If you’re a knitter, maybe you can provide several afghan squares to Warm Up America. If you can crank out quilts in a flash, maybe there’s a lap quilt you can donate to a raffle or to a children’s hospital.
7. It can help you de-stress
Having a hobby can help you de-stress and get your emotions centered, so when you’ve had a long day, or a particularly tough week, work on your favorite hobby and feel the stress fall away. Pull out a sketch book and dream up your next quilt. If you’re not feeling like starting a new project, simply have fun pulling together a beautiful pile of fabrics from your stash; this can be a fun no-commitment creative exercise.
"If we start thinking about that beneficial carryover effect day after day, year after year, it starts to make sense how leisure can help improve health in the long term. Stress causes a buildup of higher heart rate, blood pressure, and hormone levels, so the more we can prevent this overworked state, the less of a load it builds up,” says Dr. Matthew Zawadzki.
Remember that developing a hobby can take time; don’t be hard on yourself if it takes a while to find something you love to do. Try different activities, and don’t be disheartened if you’re not great at everything. Your mom may be a hand-sewing whiz, but you may be a machine quilter. Your brother loves to garden but you may love to do yoga. As Adriene, the modern yoga video phenomenon says, “Find what feels good.”