When you’re juggling multiple responsibilities, finding a new hobby may be the last thing on your mind. But did you know that adding an enjoyable pastime to your routine could improve how well you handle stress?
Research suggests that using your free time for pleasurable activities may put you in a more positive state of mind, lower your blood pressure and reduce symptoms of depression.
Far from being a waste of time, hobbies are a great way to rest, recharge, recuperate and get into a more positive mindset. These hobbies don’t have to be difficult to fit into your routine. Here are some easy and low-cost activities you can try on your own or with friends.
Solo stress-relieving hobbies
Searching for photo opportunities can encourage you to see the beauty in the everyday. Nature photography can be especially beneficial - studies show that walks in a natural environment can lower stress levels more than walks in urban areas. And you don’t need a high-tech camera to do it as many smartphones have good cameras.
Gazing at fish isn’t just relaxing, it can lower your blood pressure. Pet fish can give you a sense of structure and responsibility and yet they don’t need constant attention. You can even get creative with your choice of fish. Visit your local pet store to get started.
The craft of knitting can focus you and put you in an almost meditative state called ‘flow’. Rather than buy a new winter hat, why not make one? Or better yet, knit something for a loved one. You can learn by joining a knitting club, buying a book or watching tutorials online.
According to a study by the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, getting creative for just 45 minutes can reduce stress, no matter your skill level. Scrapbooking is a great artistic outlet if you don’t enjoy painting or drawing. Document your experiences and turn photographs of treasured moments into displays and collages. There are lots of opportunities to connect with others online or through craft clubs and classes.
Tending to a garden can get you out and into the sunshine. According to a study, gardening may be a more effective stress reliever than reading. Immerse yourself in a natural environment and nurture a scene you can be proud of. Visit your local garden centre to get some inspiration.
Group activities to reduce stress
Yoga or tai chi
Both yoga and tai chi can help relieve stress through the use of slow, controlled movements and deep breathing. In addition to relaxing you, tai chi may be able to lower your blood pressure, improve bone density and relieve symptoms of arthritis. You can join a local yoga or tai chi class or find some exercises online.
Lower your stress levels, strengthen your muscles and get your blood pumping with circuit training. Exercise can increase endorphin levels, which gives your mood a boost. Due to the intensity of circuit training, you can get the benefits of a long workout in a shorter space of time, making it easier to fit into your schedule. You may find circuit training sessions at your local gym or search for videos online.
If you’re new to exercise, don’t push yourself too hard. Circuit training can be quite demanding. Always start slowly and increase the intensity of your workout over time.
Exercising and socialising with friends and family are two effective ways to combat stress. Team sports like cricket and football combine these elements, so you get double the stress-busting benefits. Join a team or gather together your loved ones for an informal match.
We can’t always prevent stressful situations, but we can learn to manage them. In the next article, you can learn how to handle the pressures of a stressful job.