Did you discover a new hobby recently? If you haven’t, consider adopting one if you want to benefit your physical and mental well-being.
You don’t get out of bed in the morning simply to work, pay bills, nosh on a salad or two, and repeat. Your interests make life worth living. Many of the healthy hobbies on this list require little to no investment outside of your time. An added bonus? All of them can be done on your own, or with others. Up to you!
Now — get up off the couch and start exploring your passions today!
How Hobbies Benefit Your Mental and Physical Health
Healthy hobbies benefit you in multiple ways. It’s a snap to see how they improve your physical well-being. For example, if you spend every weekend hiking up mountains, you’ll increase your heart rate and lower blood pressure while building muscle, strengthening your bones and losing weight. Puttering in the garden likewise elevates your pulse, and heavy-duty hoeing and weeding can leave you feeling pleasantly sore.
The perks don’t stop below your neckline. After a tough day at the office, spending an hour on the yoga mat or strolling down a tree-lined avenue relieves mental strain better than happy hour drinks — without the hangover. If you have no energy left, sitting quietly in meditation requires no muscles at all. The effects on your neurotransmitter levels are entirely beneficial.
How can you discover a hobby you love? Here’s the fun part — it takes trial and error. Here are 12 suggestions to get you started.
Hiking combines exercise with the great outdoors. Both benefit your physical and mental health. Your body produces vitamin D naturally when exposed to sunlight, but you do want to wear your sunscreen, though.
This hobby works for people of all ages, although if you have physical challenges, they can prove cumbersome at times. However, think of the advantages this form of exercise offers if you do need assistance. No one will look twice at you for using a walking stick — or two.
If you have a need for speed, running gets your heart pounding like few other activities. You can play with the intensity by picking up the pace or tackling that hill that looks like a hamstring nightmare.
Running is the ideal exercise to do solo if you use your brain on the job. It gets blood flowing to your neurons while simultaneously removing distractions. Leave the iPod at home, please — it’s better for your safety and improves your ability to think. Don’t be surprised if you have many breakthroughs while logging your miles, but don’t try to force it. Let your thoughts flow naturally.
You see all sorts of people at the gym, but mostly, folks lose themselves in their repetitions. Introverts take heart — there’s no shame or rudeness in inserting your earbuds and not talking to another soul, other than to ask if you can work in a set of hamstring curls.
Medical studies show just about type of physical activity can help lower stress and anxiety naturally. So even if you’re new to weightlifting, you don’t need to wonder whether some reps with that set of 5-pound dumbbells will help you reap health benefits. Try something light like resistance training to start toning your biceps and triceps.
If you thought golfing was only for men with funky wardrobes, think again. You can get a full-body workout if you find a course that permits walking. You enjoy fresh air and sunshine galore, and no one will raise an eyebrow if you grab a brewski when the drinks cart passes by.
If you play solo, you will get paired with a teammate or three — be honest about your ability or lack thereof. If you aren’t adept, swallow your pride, do your best and have fun.
This sport does come with a steeper price tag than the mostly free activities on this list, but you can find inexpensive tee times if you select off-peak hours. Plus, you can get a bucket of range balls for $5 or less at most locations and swing away to your heart’s content. Alternatively, head to the putting and chipping greens to improve your short game.
Do you have rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or any chronic pain condition? If so, you should make your yoga mat your best friend, stat. This ancient exercise form benefits everybody, but it works wonders for some disorders.
If you want a gentle, reflective method for treating pain, try yin yoga. This easygoing practice lengthens your connective tissues, which often form adhesions from long periods of sitting or standing in one position. Are you more down for a challenge? Try an ashtanga class on for size. If you can get through the fourth series, hats off to you.
Hobbies don’t have to involve physical activity, of course. There is a world of options out there if you prefer something low-key. If you do manual labor for a living, your body may need the break to benefit your health more than it requires additional movement. Your muscles heal and grow stronger when they rest, and not everyone leads sedentary lives.
You can use mindfulness practice, or lookup free guided meditation videos on YouTube to get started. Find a quiet place where you can sit and focus your awareness on your breath. As thoughts intrude — and they will — label them “thinking” and return your concentration to the rhythm of your inhales and exhales.
Centering yourself in this manner helps silence racing thoughts and reminds you that whatever has you panicked isn’t happening in the present moment. It can help you think more clearly about stressful circumstances and frees your creative mind to untangle tricky problems.
Is cooking something you leave up to your microwave? While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional grab-and-go delight, cooking reminds you that food is more than something to slam down at your desk. It’s a celebration of life and deserves the honor it holds in many European nations where people linger for hours over a meal.
The best part about this hobby is that you can personalize it to suit your taste buds and customize it for your health needs. If you know colorectal cancer runs in your family, you should cut back on red and processed meats, which the World Health Organization (WHO) labels as carcinogens. Why not invest in a few vegan cookbooks and see if you can make a plant-based “burger” worthy of awards?
Maybe you only sew when you have a hole in your jeans. Fair enough, but if you like to work with your hands, you could do much more with this hobby. You can design custom outfits that will make you the hit of any soiree — and you won’t have to worry about anyone else showing up in the same duds.
If you aren’t a fashionista, you can do ample cozy crafts with a needle and thread. Learn how to knit a hat or a comfy afghan that you can give to family members as holiday gifts. Practice needlepoint and decorate your walls with one-of-a-kind art.
If you always wanted to see if you could grow watermelon from seed, now is the season to start. Even if you dwell in an urban apartment, you can plant a container garden on your balcony. A single windowsill offers ample room for herbs like lemon balm and lavender. Still not convinced? Read up on all the Health Benefits of Gardening.
If your fondest memories took place in your father’s workshop, why not make woodworking your adult hobby? You can play Santa each year at holiday time by creating custom toys for well-behaved girls and boys. You can also make window boxes to beautify your home’s exterior or a birdhouse for your feathered friends.
You will need to invest a bit to get started in this hobby. However, once you hone your craft, you can turn it into a lucrative side hustle. Not everything has to be work-oriented, but earning extra money from doing something you love beats the pants off reporting to a second or third boss.
The advent of the internet makes books more affordable than ever. You can find those that fall in the public domain free to read at many online libraries. If you have a bit more to spend, you can invest in an e-reader like Kindle. Many books now offer electronic versions at a steeply reduced price, and you don’t have as much to lug with you when you move.
Reading improves your health by teaching you new things. If you have internet access, follow your favorite blogs online, and you’ll never want for content. If you want to make new friends, you can join a book club or become a regular at your local library.
Arts and Crafts
This final category is intentionally broad. Maybe you love nothing more than a rainbow. Have you experimented with making a beaded suncatcher to hang in a south-facing window? Do you have cats who find your kitchen hand towels irresistible? Keep them off the floor by crocheting a buttoned handle to the top to prevent feline claws from pulling them off your oven door.
Declare an art-therapy Saturday by going to your nearest craft shop and exploring what you could make. You could buy some acrylics and get in on the neighborhood painted rock game or start building a birdfeeder out of popsicle sticks. If you are the Earth-friendly sort, scour the internet for creative uses for old tin cans and paper towel cardboard.