One of the key facets of capitalist society is an obsession with efficiency and productivity. There’s this consistent pressure to be doing something productive at all times. Productive is almost always synonymous with financially beneficial. Things are only productive and worthwhile to the extent that they result in material gain. For this reason, many people cast their hobbies aside or succumb to the pressure to monetize what they enjoy so that it no longer feels like a waste of time. That’s a lie. Things are not beneficial only when they bring material rewards. Things can just be beneficial and enjoyable simply because they are. Here are the mental health benefits of hobbies.
Improves overall well-being
One study found that people who regularly take time to just engage in activities simply for the pleasure of it are less likely to feel low. Participating in such activities increases the person’s overall sense of well-being. This is especially true for people who take time to participate in creative activities. The feelings of positivity and upliftment last a few days after engaging in the hobby or activity.
Participating in hobbies purely for the enjoyment of it has been shown to reduce stress levels. One study found that the cortisol levels of participants dropped by 75% after making art. Cortisol is the main hormone involved in stress. When you’re triggered e.g. when you perceive a threat like a dog barking at you, the adrenal glands are triggered, and cortisol is released. Art dropping cortisol levels isn’t just limited to people with artistic skills. Stress reduction was registered regardless of prior experience making art. Engaging in hobbies minimizes the impact of chronic stress and pandemic fatigue.
Decrease depression and anxiety
Hobbies have been linked to lowering the levels of depression and to some extent preventing it altogether. Taking time to engage in activities that bring you pleasure and joy can also ease your anxiety. One way that hobbies decrease depression and anxiety is because of the brain’s reward system. When you take part in an activity that you enjoy, the brain releases dopamine, a feel-good chemical.
Promotes overall health
For people whose hobbies are physical activities, for example, riding a bike, it can help reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure and heart rate. Outdoor activities lead to an improved mood and better focus.
Hobbies can be a great way to socialize. Taking part in cooking classes, dance classes and reading groups can be a great way to meet new people and make friends. Research shows that adults who participate in some kind of team sport are less likely to experience depression, anxiety, and stress.
Ironically, taking time out to engage in activities that are generally considered a waste of time actually improves productivity. One study found that an off-work creative outlet improved employees’ problem-solving during work. Hobbies also challenge people to learn new skills which can be transferred to work.
Hobbies linked to improved mental health include gardening, reading, creating art, writing, knitting, making and listening to music, curating a collection, playing with a pet, exercising, meditation, taking part in sports, and more. If you’re able to, set a little time aside just to engage in an activity purely for the pleasure of it outside of the pressure to be financially productive.
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