Updated: Jan 13
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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Research about how creative activities outside work can improve job performance