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There are a lot of experts on social media telling you the best hobbies for mental health include learning to play the oboe, flying to the Riviera Maya for a relaxing vacation, going to an online casino real money to have an excellent soothing game of baccarat, or taking up crocheting.
Those of us who don’t know what an oboe is, are having mental health problems because we can’t afford a vacation to the Riviera Maya, don’t know baccarat from a back scratcher, or have a fear of needles and yarn dating back to childhood these are not legitimate solutions.
The good news is that mental health-boosting hobbies are all around us regardless of what your interests may be. Most of them don’t require a significant financial investment, just putting out an effort. Here are some examples:
Hopefully, you live in a community where walking is safe or at least have access to some nearby trails, but really simply going for a walk is probably the best hobby of all time. Walking is so versatile – if you think it’s boring, listen to a podcast or walk with friends. If you’d rather be in a tavern, mix some booze with your sports drink. If you’re embarrassed – don’t be because you’re doing more than the lazy people driving by pointing fingers.
First and foremost, walking provides cardiovascular exercise, which aids in heart health and helps you lose weight – while also building muscle in your legs. Walking helps boost your mood because it increases blood flow to the brain. While it may seem like more of an exercise than a hobby, download a fitness app and share your progress with others, or better yet, form a walking club and get others involved. There is always strength and positivity in numbers.
Building on that a bit, once you’ve built up your cardiovascular system a bit, the next evolution in walking is going for hikes. Distancing yourself further from the hustle and bustle of urban areas and getting more in touch with nature has immense mental health benefits – and hiking is a more intense physical activity as well.
Walking and reading may seem like no-brainers, and they are – yet so many people fail to reap the benefits of activities that are right there in front of us. Research has shown that regular reading keeps your brain connected, improves speech and vocabulary, reduces blood pressure, heart rate, and stress, and prevents cognitive decline.
The knowledge gained by reading can help you in other areas of life that may be causing stress – like thinking of something to talk about in conversations. Self-help books give you a better ability to see inwards, and reading to somebody else, like a toddler or an elderly person, helps build empathy.
One thing to note is that reading should be a positive activity to increase mental health, not ‘doomscrolling’ through social media just looking to be angry.
The foods we eat have a direct correlation with our mental health. Sugar and processed foods for the brain inflame the body, which causes stress, depression, and anxiety.
What better way to launch a two-pronged campaign for better mental health than to take up the hobby of cooking? Completing a recipe provides a sense of accomplishment which in turn boosts self-esteem and increases mood. Cooking helps you practice patience and attention to detail and allows creative expression as you tweak recipes.
There’s the mental health boost in the process of cooking itself, but then the added benefit of getting to eat the meals you prepare. Omega-3-rich foods are particularly beneficial to brain health, as do the different ingredients you cook with, such as olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseeds, avocado, etc.
The best thing to do is to go out and try as many new hobbies as possible. Just trying something new has mental health benefits, so it’s a start.