We often neglect the importance of hobbies in our quest for a more balanced life. However, hobbies play an essential role in our physical and mental wellbeing. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends we regularly engage in hobbies as a way to preserve our mental wellbeing. Here are a few reasons why engaging in activities we enjoy helps with our mental health:
Hobbies reduce stress and anxiety
A growing body of research shows that leisure activities significantly reduce stress. Especially when everything feels like chaos right now, carving out time for hobbies can give us a calm sense of control. Allocating a slice of worry-free leisure time is key to improving our mood and anxiety levels. This can be seen in our physical response as well, with lower heart rates and reduced blood pressure.
Hobbies improve productivity
The sense of accomplishment hobbies provide is extremely beneficial during times of uncertainty. When we engage in hobbies we enjoy, our brain produces feel-good chemicals called dopamine. And dopamine helps us be more motivated, creative, and productive. Researchers at San Francisco State University demonstrated that off-work creative outlets improved employees' problem-solving during work. Hobbies also challenge people to learn new skills that can be transferred to work.
Hobbies increase social support
Studies have shown that a strong social network is a key factor to mental wellness and healthy aging. Notably, hobbies that connect you with others help you cultivate a diverse social network. You can also make time for social hobbies during quarantine such as joining a weekly Zoom yoga class, or watching a movie with your family. These activities keep you socially engaged by bringing you closer to your community and connecting you with people who share like-minded interests.
Hobbies help prevent burnout
The pandemic has escalated the prevalence and severity of burnout. Luckily, engaging in simple leisure activities can minimize the impact of chronic stress. Anyone experiencing pandemic fatigue can and should reap the benefits of hobbies on a regular basis. Regularly doing something you enjoy rejuvenates your mind and builds resilience to face challenges ahead.
Whether it's learning to cook, trying a new workout video, or joining an online reading community – commit to something you enjoy a few times a week. It is a difficult time for all of us, and there are no easy answers. But carving out bits of time for hobbies and self-care make a big difference in our mental health and in turn help us live more fulfilled lives.
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