What do you do when you’re not working or taking care of your responsibilities? How do you spend your leisure time?
Maybe you like to watch TV, play video games, or surf the internet. Or perhaps you prefer an active lifestyle and like to play sports, go hiking, or bike riding.
Some people enjoy doing something with their hands—something creative, such as painting, woodworking, or gardening. Or something more intellectual, such as playing chess, doing crossword puzzles, or reading.
Hobbies are more than just ways to pass the time. They can also have some unexpected benefits for your health. For example:
Hobbies Can Reduce Stress
The small hassles of everyday life can be surprisingly destructive to your health and well-being—probably even more so than major life events, such as the death of a loved one, job loss, or divorce.
That’s why it’s so important to have a daily dose of stress relief to offset the effects of chronic stress.
Engaging in a hobby can be a great way to achieve this. Doing something you enjoy can help take your mind off of your worries for a little while, providing you with some extra cognitive space to process and cope with whatever stressful situation you are dealing with today.
You don’t necessarily need a whole lot of time, either. Having less leisure time may actually lead to a stronger stress-relieving response compared to someone who finds themselves with an abundance of free time on their hands.
Hobbies Can Enhance Your Relationships
Even when a hobby is an “alone” type of activity, it can still allow you to connect with others more meaningfully. Whether that involves meeting new people who share that same interest or simply expressing your unique passion as a conversation starter with friends and family members, hobbies can give you a great opportunity to bond with others.
Many hobbies also present opportunities to share time and experiences with others, which can further enhance your relationships. This could mean playing games with a group of friends, going on nature hikes together, or baking together as a couple—the possibilities are endless.
And as your social relationships improve, so does your physical and emotional health. People with strong social ties tend to suffer from fewer health problems, recover from illness faster, and live longer than those who don’t have those connections.
Hobbies Can Improve Your Overall Health
- increased physical activity
- elevated life satisfaction
- improved social support
- reduced depression and negative affect
- lowered blood pressure
- improved cortisol levels
- better BMI
- easier weight control
- increased longevity
Many of these health benefits may be related to the significant reduction in stress that hobbies provide. Still, there are likely many other factors contributing to the positive effects as well.
If you don’t currently have a hobby that inflames your passion, or if you are looking for some new ideas, there are endless possibilities to choose from.
Search for something with a culture that you get along with, something that is not too easy but not too hard, something that you can do your own way with freedom and autonomy.
And don’t neglect it when you find a hobby that you love, that relieves your stress and opens up new possibilities for socializing and self-expression.
It may seem easy to let them fall by the wayside as you get busy with work and other responsibilities, but prioritizing and making time for your hobbies may be more important to your health than you realize.