Want to manage stress better and feel happier? Get a hobby! Some research even indicates that consistently engaging in a hobby that you love may just help you live longer.
A 2015 study found that people who pursued their passion by engaging in hobbies during their leisure time felt 34 percent less stressed and 18 percent happier compared to those who did not engage in hobbies.
A 2016 study involving people age 65 or older found that the ones who engaged in their hobbies and felt they had a purpose in life lived longer and had better overall wellbeing compared to those who did not have a hobby.
And finally, a 2017 study featuring caregivers of a loved one with Alzheimer’s showed a lowering of blood pressure in those caregivers who actively engaged in a pleasant hobby. This is significant because caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be very stressful.
While this research is interesting, it may be difficult to find the time to consistently engage in your hobby. Here are some tips that may help you get the health benefits you deserve from your hobby:
Identify your hobby. The first thing to do is settle on the hobby you want to focus on. The only advice here is to pick something you are passionate about or that you love to do. There are so many options: woodworking, writing, scrapbooking, singing, golf, gardening, pets, painting, etc.
Make it a priority. We suggest keeping a diary for at least a week to determine how you presently spend your time. Then, identify times you can swap out an activity for your hobby. Perhaps you are watching TV more than you thought. Maybe you can go to bed earlier and get up earlier to do your hobby in the morning. Maybe you can swap child watching time with your partner or a friend.
Schedule it. As a follow on to the second point, once you make your hobby a priority, actually put time on your calendar. Schedule your hobby just as you would an important meeting or appointment.
Make it manageable. Set your expectations a bit lower to start. You don’t want your hobby to become overwhelming because then you may not stick with it. If you are new to writing, for example, set a goal of 400 words a week, rather than thinking you will have a book written in a month or several poems completed every week.
Don’t have a hobby? Have no fear because there are other things you can do. You can focus on self-improvement by taking up meditation or learning a new language.
There is no question that what we do in our free time is significant. If we choose to spend our leisure time wisely, we will not only find more enjoyment, we will likely improve our physical and mental health as well.
Mausbach BT, Romero0-Moreno R, Bos T, et al. Engagement in pleasant leisure activities and blood pressure: A five-year longitudinal study in Alzheimer caregivers. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2017;79(7):735-741.
Tomioka K, Kurumatani N, Hosoi H. Relationship of having hobbies and a purpose in life with mortality, activities of daily living, and instrumental activities of daily living among community-dwelling elderly adults. Journal of Epidemiology. 2016;26(7):2016.
Zawadzki MJ, Smyth JM, Costigan HJ. Real-time associations between engaging in leisure and daily health and well-being. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2015;49(4):605-15.