Hobbies are more than just a fun way to pass the time. When chosen carefully, they can also be incredibly beneficial for your mental health, giving you something to focus on and progress with, which can give you a boost to your confidence and self-esteem.
Anxiety can leave you feeling stressed, worried and physically exhausted, but it can also make it harder for people to make friends. Hobbies can help you to meet like-minded people and force you out of your comfort zone in the best possible way. The following hobbies are particularly well-suited to people experiencing anxiety, helping to calm the mind and give focus.
Photography is an incredibly calming activity and can be a wonderful way to lift your mood. Looking through the lens of your camera quite literally forces you to see things differently, and it encourages you to focus on the finer details in life. You will begin to seek out the beauty in everything and that can be a great exercise for managing your anxiety.
Taking photographs, whether you decide to specialise in landscapes, wildlife or portraiture, can serve as a form of mindfulness, allowing you to really be in the moment and relax, but it can also provide a physical reminder of the good times and the highlights of life that can be easy to forget when you’re struggling with your mental health.
Music has an incredible ability to shift our mood, whether we’re feeling happy and want to celebrate or if we’re feeling low. But you can use this to your advantage when it comes to relieving anxiety and other mental health conditions such as depression. Whether you’re playing music or simply listening to it, music has the power to change and enhance your mood. In fact, studies suggest that listening to music can have a significant impact on the human stress response and autonomic nervous system, helping people to recover from stress far quicker.
Learning an instrument can be an effective way to combine two anxiety-relieving benefits, both from the calming nature of hearing music and the creative outlet that learning something new can provide. Learning to play the guitar, for example, can be an affordable hobby to start and can help you meet other people with similar interests too. As your skills grow, you might even consider joining a band for regular music playing.
We’ve all enjoyed the relaxing feeling of sitting in the garden or any outdoor space, revelling in a cool breeze and admiring the flora and fauna. But gardening as a hobby gives you those same reactions in your own home. Whether you enjoy pottering about your garden alone and taking some time to yourself or you like the community aspect of an allotment, working together on different gardening projects, there are various ways to get involved with gardening that can be helpful for those suffering with anxiety.
Getting out in the sun gives you that all important dose of Vitamin D and the fresh air and calming sounds can really help to ease a racing mind. It doesn’t matter if you have a garden, a small patio area or even just enough space for some pots on your windowsill. Any activity where you can dig your hands into the earth and watch things grow can help.
We’re always being told how good exercise is for our physical health, but it can also do wonders for your mental health too. It releases endorphins, gives you a boost of confidence and can be a great way of relieving tension and stress that anxiety can cause. A calming activity like swimming, for example, can be a great way of getting in those active minutes without putting too much strain on your body, and the rhythmic nature of swimming and the sounds of the water can slow down your thoughts.
Pilates and yoga are also great options for people struggling with anxiety. As Tanya Botting, a massage therapist at The Health Hub, explains “Pilates can help make your body stronger and more functional, making everyday tasks easier and more enjoyable. Age and ability are no barriers, as Pilates truly can benefit everyone”.
There’s no denying that cooking can be stressful if you view it as a chore, but when you enjoy the process of cooking a meal or baking something sweet to enjoy, it can be a really therapeutic activity. The satisfaction of the end result, a product of your hard-work, time and effort, can be really rewarding. But food can also impact your mental health in a positive way too, just simply from the things you choose to make.
Whether you’re new to cooking and just learning the basics or it’s something you once enjoyed but have fallen out of love with, getting in the kitchen and soaking up that time to make yourself a nourishing meal can be a great habit to get into.
From knitting and painting to ceramics, the world of crafts is incredibly broad and there are options to suit everyone. No matter what your interest, you’re sure to find a craft that resonates with you, and it can be a fun way to get creative and make something with your own hands. If you like the idea of making something practical, why not take up knitting or crochet and start making yourself clothes or gifts for loved ones? It’s a practical craft that is very soothing and there are plenty of patterns to get started with that are tailored to beginners.
Or maybe you learn best by working with others, in which case joining a ceramics class where you can chat to other people and pick up the necessary skills may be a better choice for you.
Anxiety is a debilitating condition that can take over, so having something that helps you to clear your mind and enjoy yourself can be a welcome relief. Take time to find the hobbies that work best for you, as everyone is different and what works for someone else might not necessarily work well for you. But be sure to stay open-minded to trying new things, as there’s guaranteed to be an activity out there that will help to ease your mind and encourage you to relax.
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