The science of hobbies is both fascinating and surprisingly predictable: they’re beneficial because they make you happy. On a molecular level, taking up an enjoyable pastime releases neurotransmitters (the messengers of brain chemicals) like dopamine, which catalyzes pleasure.
“Doing an activity that causes the release of dopamine is like pressing a “Feel Good” button in our brain and returning to the activity regularly can elevate our daily moods and general well-being by continuing to increase these pleasure chemicals and reducing stress chemicals like cortisol, the build-up of which can have negative effects on our health.” Says Abby Prince, ProSearch Director.
Having a hobby is linked to lower depression levels and the reduction or prevention of anhedonia, which is a common symptom of depression that causes you to lose interest in activities or habits you normally enjoy. In other words, sometimes finding something you enjoy doing can be the solution for when you feel like you can’t enjoy anything! In fact, social prescribing is a treatment method that many psychiatrists advise for patients with mild to moderate depression, where they use non-medical interventions (like hobbies, social interactions, exercise, etc.) to improve mental health. Studies have shown that creative activities like singing, gardening, and painting are effective not just for decreasing stress and depression levels but may also have long-term benefits for cognitive function.
So hobbies are good for you. But what to do in between work emails, household chores, and other responsibilities? With the myriad options we have, it can be overwhelming to just pick something that you may or may not enjoy and won’t just add another item to your to-do list.
If you’re already starting to feel overloaded with the endless possibilities, worry not! Here’s a list of different hobbies we recommend taking up for a happier, more relaxed, and more fulfilled you:
Get some green
There’s a reason why your friends’ apartments are starting to look like a sanctuary for George of the Jungle: scientists report that spending at least two hours a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. If you have a backyard or a balcony, gardening can be a fun activity that gets you moving while making your space beautiful (or delicious, if you have the green thumb for vegetables!)
For those who don’t have space for a personal garden or access to parks or green spaces, bringing the outside to you can be a great way of adding life into your daily routine. Look up easy houseplants for beginners that will add that therapeutic green to your home without the stress of strict watering and sun rotation schedules.
Explore the great outdoors
The best and easiest way to get your dose of happy green and see nature is to be outside. Studies constantly show that being outside lowers cortisol levels, and getting some sun means you can recharge on Vitamin D, which is essential for bone growth, regulating our immune system, and bettering our moods. You don’t have to go on a 40-mile hike or free solo up El Capitan; it can be as simple as taking a quick stroll around your neighborhood during your lunch (you should be giving your eyes a break from the screen, anyway!) or adding a walk to your next coffee date.
Take a hike
If you have the time and access, look up your nearest national and state parks and see what amazing views and activities your area has to offer. Most park systems have a range of trails for different activity levels, and sites like AllTrails can help you find the perfect hike or nature walk for your Saturday happy time. Remember to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated, and always let others know if you’re heading to a remote area (if they’re not already hitting the trail with you).
Exercise isn’t just physical
While we all understand the physical benefits of exercise, countless research has shown that moving your body is an effective way to reduce and combat a range of symptoms linked to mental health disorders, such as ADHD, anxiety, and PTSD, among others. While this is not an alternative to seeking professional help if you feel that your mental health is getting in the way of daily life, exercising can be a helpful tool for lowering your stress levels and releasing those happy hormones, as well as other long-term benefits like stimulating cell regeneration and regulate sleep patterns.
Just as you don’t have to be the next John Muir to enjoy nature, adding exercise to your routine doesn’t have to be an expensive or overwhelming task. Finding local gyms or clubs can be a great way of getting out of the house and increasing your social interactions, but there are plenty of options for at-home exercises: YouTube hosts a variety of videos on yoga, running, Pilates, body weight training, high intensity interval training, among many more that you can do from the comfort of your living room.
Hit the books
Do you remember the elation you felt when you were in middle school and just finished the latest Harry Potter release? There’s a scientific reason behind why books can sometimes feel addictive – studies show that reading just six minutes a day has a range of benefits, from improving quality of sleep, reducing stress levels, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and even strengthening our neural circuits and pathways.
Choosing what to read next is easier than ever with monthly subscriptions like Book of the Month that curate new releases based on your interests, and apps like Libby and Overdrive are linked to your local library card and let you access their cache of eBooks, audiobooks, even movies and TV shows from any device.
Take time for yourself
When we’re constantly moving through career and personal responsibilities and thinking of how to improve and optimize our lives, finding a hobby that you simply enjoy can be an effective tool for bettering your mental health and grounding yourself. A hobby allows space for you to move, create, learn, and just do without the pressure of hitting goals or increasing productivity. It’s more important than ever to find and prioritize these spaces so you stay happy, healthy, and sane.
How we can help
At CSS ProSearch, we value the unique qualities that make a person and the importance of finding the best fit for you and your team. We take a consultative approach to recruiting and focus on building lasting partnerships when placing top sales and marketing talent in healthcare, technology, and consulting verticals. Check out our blog to read more on career and self-development, or ask us about how we can help you reach your next goal.