Do you have a favorite way to spend your off-time — tinkering away on old knick-knacks, knitting, drawing or painting, or taking photos of beautiful landscapes? No doubt you feel happier when you’re working on your hobbies, but your pastimes may be benefiting your health more than you know.
Some of you may remember creating friendship bracelets — those colorful, personalized symbols of true kinship. There was something rewarding in the process from choosing just the right colors and braiding intricate patterns to presenting it to a favorite person and experiencing their surprise and happiness in the gift.
Whether you love flower arranging, playing guitar, gardening, refurbishing vintage furniture or making friendship bracelets, hobbies can be soul-nurturing endeavors.
Christopher D. Stanton, MD, with Renown Medical Group shares some of his favorite hobbies and the benefits past times can have on your health.
Hobbies provide physical and mental health benefits by giving a person an alternative place to spend time and mental energy and therefore become reinvigorated for the rest of life.
My hobby is playing the banjo, and I go to a place that I like to call “banjoland” after I’ve been picking for about 10 minutes. This literally puts me in another frame of mind and another place, and therefore, definitely helps me deal with stress.
MORE: Dr. Stanton Goes to Banjoland and People, Patients Listen
Mentally or physically demanding hobbies, such as playing music and chess and bridge, reading a complex book, or doing physically demanding exercise can definitely help with brain function.
This has been documented in the various studies in medical literature.
As I heard a professional actor once say, “The brain is like a muscle; the more you use it, the better it gets at what is demanded of it.”
Positive stress, or Eustress, is a term coined by the Hungarian Endocrinologist Hans Selye, which means stress can have a positive effect on us. It has to do with how a person responds or reacts to stress.
I feel that being in a better place emotionally and mentally after having played the banjo makes me better able to deal with the demands and stresses of life and my job.
I am not a surgeon, but I remember when I was an intern, feeling the stress of assisting at surgery definitely put me on a more alert and attentive edge that I feel probably made me a better surgical assistant.
Keep on pickin’ and grinnin’!
7 Health Benefits of Having a Hobby
- Social Support. Hiking, bowling, Bunko or book clubs are all examples of group-related hobbies. Bonding with others adds social support to your life which helps lower stress.
- Take a Break. Hobbies allow you to take a break while still having a sense of purpose. Hobbies give you time to relax and refocus energy.
- Save Money. Buying second-hand or garage sale items you can refurbish such as book shelves, garden pots or old frames can save you money. Plus, you’ll be recycling! It’s good for your heart and the planet.
- Hobbies allow you to stay present and in the zone. This calms the nerves and creates a sense of well-being.
- Satisfaction. Seeing a project through can create a sense of satisfaction. That once dilapidated bookshelf you sanded, painted and decorated for your child’s room can provide a great sense of accomplishment.
- Balance. Hobbies provide balance in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Spending the day with your kids is great and then balancing that with a night of bowling with friends helps you refocus, energize and feel more prepared to take on life’s challenges.
- Positive Stress. Eustress or “Good Stress.” As Dr. Stanton points out, Eustress helps us view stressors in our lives as challenges rather than threats. This is the type of positive stress that keeps us vital and excited about life. By looking forward to your Tango dance lesson and meeting new people, you can trigger Eustress.
What Hobby Should I Choose?
so many options, how do you choose the hobby that fits you best?
Make a list of what interests you.
- Do you love to read? Perhaps you could try your hand at writing.
- Love to cook? Take a cooking class — make a meal and a friend or two!
Once you’ve figured out what piques your interest, check out what’s offered at your local community college or community education courses. These are fairly affordable and offer a short-term commitment.
Local libraries and museums offer a wide array of classes and events:
- Bridge groups
- Knitting & crochet clubs
- Swing dance lessons
- Tai chi classes
- Screen printing