Can Hobbies Improve Our Mental Health?

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There is no doubt that the pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health. In the last year, many individuals have understandably felt more anxious, lonely, and depressed than ever before.

Organizations such as the CDC and the WHO have even issued guidance on how people can look after their mental health during this difficult time. While much of the key advice addresses the obvious areas like sleep, nutrition, hygiene, and exercise, it seems there may be some less obvious recommendations that have been overlooked.

What Brings You Joy …

Let’s take it back to childhood—days filled with playing at the park, drawing, riding your bike. We did things that brought us joy without even thinking twice. As we grow up, responsibility starts to set in, and much of that time gets replaced with working, paying the bills, and a variety of other obligations.

Although we know that sleep, exercise, and nutrition each play a big role in mental wellbeing, research shows that having a hobby can lower levels of depression and may even prevent depression for some. It’s time for us to think about what we used to enjoy when we were kids and start inserting some of those activities back into our routine. You may not even have to reach that far back!

So, how do we start a new hobby with everything going on? Let’s take a look at some important steps to finding a hobby and making it successful.

  • Identify a Hobby – Whether it’s an old hobby that you used to enjoy or a new one that lines up with who you are now, identify exactly what that is for you. This can range from training for a race, painting, cooking, crafting, playing an instrument, or even building things. The key here is finding something you ENJOY. This part may include some trial and error but continue to search for one until you find something that excites you.
  • Schedule the Time – In order to make a new habit stick, you need to repeat it. The easiest way for this to be successful is to schedule time for your new hobby in your calendar. Make sure that whenever you schedule it, you know that it is totally do-able for you (length and time of day). For example, if you know you can only do this on the weekend, plan for the weekend. If you know you can only allow yourself 20 minutes – do that! Start small and see how much more you can fit in as you go.
  • Get the Materials – Most hobbies require some type of materials or equipment in order to be successful. That might be art supplies or new socks and running shoes to train for that race. Make sure you are equipped with the tools to make the hobby a victory!
  • Create a Buddy System – There is no greater way to hold yourself accountable than to have someone else that relies on you to complete the task at hand. With any habit, finding a buddy that can help keep you on track and to share in the joy is a win-win! Even if you can’t find a buddy to participate with you, find someone that you can talk to about the new hobby to keep you enthused and to provide that “keep up the good work!” cheerleading.
  • Set Goals – Setting a goal can help us establish a purpose as to the “why”. An example might be learning an instrument so you can play a certain song, or maybe it’s a specific recipe that you want to nail. Either way, set a goal for yourself about where you would like to end up. There are likely even incremental stages you can focus on reaching so you can check off smaller milestones along the way to help you stay motivated.
  • Have Fun – It might feel like more work at first, but the most important part of this whole process is that you are having fun! If it’s setting aside that much-needed “you-time” or including the family, make sure that you have a blast!

Want some reinforcement to help you on your journey to adding a hobby back into your routine?

WellStyles’ Hobby Time Challenge

We’ve got a challenge for you! Start ramping up your hobby time today! If you are a member of WellStyles through Valley Schools, join us for the Hobby Time Challenge May 10th – May 21st on WellStyles to track your progress! Registration opens May 3rd. Log each day you spend doing your hobby to earn an additional 200 points to your wellness program.

If you’d like to learn more about the Valley Schools WellStyles program, let’s chat! If you are a Valley Schools member with WellStyles but haven’t logged in yet, click here to join!

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