Hobby = Health + Happiness

Hobby = Health + Happiness

In today’s hustle and bustle culture, your downtime may have a different look, and it may not be a good one. Where people once enjoyed a round of golf, knitting a scarf, practicing a new instrument, or woodworking; the new norm seems to be overrun with scanning news feed on social media or binge watching a new television series everyone’s talking about. But, how you spend your free time can have a significant impact on your health and well-being.

Researchers at the University of California, Merced, set out to explore the correlation between productive leisure time and health and well-being. They studied 100 participants who each wore a heart monitor and recorded their feelings after daily activity. What they found, was that those who engaged in leisure time were 34% less stressed and 18% less sad.

The study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine concluded that, “leisure appears to have a consistent within-person benefit on a person’s daily health and well-being; when individuals engaged in leisure, they also reported better mood, more interest, less stress, and exhibited lower heart rate than when they were not engaging in leisure activity.” 

Here are some other ways taking up a hobby will benefit you.

The Other Stress – Hobbies can definitely increase our stress, but only the other kind of stress, eustress. Eustress is when your body responds to the demands put upon it, but in a positive way.

Forming Friendships – Studies, including one reported in 2016, suggest that our health has a direct link to our social interactions; in other words, the more we socialize, the better, we feel. Consider a hobby like bowling, or a book club, that encourages get-togethers.

Hobbies also give us something to share with one another to create bonds. When we can talk about our experiences, and give a perspective about what we’re passionate about, others tend to connect with us more.

Positive Time Off – Often times when we end up surfing our social media account for an hour it can leave us feeling like we’ve wasted time. Having a hobby, on the other hand, gives us a break from our daily activities that generally has a positive outcome; we learn a new skill, we create something special, or we increase our knowledge, for example. This leads to personal gratification.

Brain Power – Consider a hobby that is a challenge to you mentally, such as chess, learning an instrument, or taking up bridge. These types of activities can improve our decision making skills, our creativity, and even lead to prevention and intervention of some diseases and unhealthy habits.

For example, a recovering addict who takes up a hobby is retraining their brain to focus on new healthier options. The Harvard Medical Schoolsuggested that people who are successful at overcoming addiction are “natural recovers,” and part of their success is their ability to take on new hobbies and challenges that provide meaning in their life.  

Finding Your Passion. What if trying a new hobby leads you to something you’re amazing at? Look at it as your own personal talent search. Try new things and see what fits. Either way, you can explore something and stick with it through mastery, or move on to something else more intriguing. With either option you’ll have greater satisfaction knowing you tried something new. Susan Biali, M.D., recommends five steps for discovering your passion 1) Inventory your talents, 2) Pay attention to who makes you annoyed or jealous, 3) Think of what you loved to do as a child. 4) Notice when you lose track of time, or what you hate to stop doing, and 5) See your passion hunt as a fun, joyful adventure.

With all these benefits, it’s time to get out there; head to the bowling alley, make a trip to the craft store, join that neighborhood book club, or audition for your local theater. Put your mind to work to discover something new you can be passionate about and you just might find you’re not only healthier, but happier.

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