How hobbies can be a great benefit to mental health
Like many others, I struggle with a lack of schedule. I feel like sixth form gave me a sense of structure in my days, a timetable to follow and deadlines to meet. I’m grateful for my long summer holiday, it feels great to relax! However without a distraction, I get quite caught up in my thoughts, and it leads me to feeling quite down or anxious. Playing on my phone is a great distraction in the moment, but in the long term my lengthy screen-time isn’t great for my mental health. Summer doesn’t last forever, and rather than being on your phone, you could invest yourself in hobbies that make you feel good about yourself!
An important thing to remember is to enjoy the process of whatever you do as a hobby! You may be rushing towards a result, like a well-decorated cake or a beautiful painting, but it’s also important to enjoy the process. Working with your hands whilst you relax your mind can also be a form of mindfulness. Hobbies can be great distractions when we feel overwhelmed, but it’s also important to be aware of your feelings, through talking about your well-being or journaling. Recently I’ve been going on walks and this form of gentle exercise has been helping me to clear my head and feel less anxious.
With creative hobbies you can give by creating something for a friend or family member, which can be really rewarding in itself. When I’ve crocheted something difficult I have fun and I feel proud of myself for making it, but my favourite part is seeing someone’s face light up when I give them it. In times where you struggle to give yourself self-care or self-love, giving to others can be a way to feel good about yourself and strengthen your relationships. I’m referencing a lot of creative hobbies because they’re what I’ve been doing lately, but you don’t have to! If you’re into something physical like a sport, that’s great! That frequent exercise will keep your mind and body in great shape and being outside will increase your vitamin D. If you like dance or acting, then you’re doing a performance that will stick with your audience, and you put a lot of effort into your craft. What’s even better is group activities can help you build friendships and partake in healthy competition. Having a goal to work towards will keep you determined if you ever feel down. Your hobby might even be something niche you haven’t discovered yet!
A lot of people hesitate because they worry that whatever hobby they take up, they’ll be bad at. However it’s important to recognise that everyone starts from somewhere, you don’t have to be perfect immediately, and you don’t have to end up as the most talented artist, musician or footballer. It’s completely fine to draw or dance even if you’re not the best at it, because it’s about you feeling good! If you’re still anxious, you could keep it a secret until you’re confident enough in your practice (unless you want to start something like rock-climbing or bungee-jumping, definitely let someone spot you!)
Moreover, you never stop growing! Artists keep developing into their 80s; you can always keep improving at your craft. And there’s no rush to be the most talented at a young age. Monet began painting properly in his 40s. It’s not embarrassing to initially start something and not be amazing at it, it’s very human and there’s no shame in it. And it’s always better to make something rather than nothing! A dry cake is better than no cake at all, a shaky square of knitting is still an accomplishment and simple stick figure drawings are better than a blank sheet of paper. Even if you feel like it was a total waste of time, you gained new experience or you had fun!
Tips for keeping it frugal
- Check that you enjoy the hobby before fully committing. Just a few supplies is okay to start off with! You don’t want to end up spending a lot on equipment like paint or ingredients to find out you don’t actually enjoy it as much as you thought you would.
- Think before making a big purchase of something you want to start as your new hobby. Coming from someone who begged her dad for a guitar then only used it twice, you might spend a lot of money and not enjoy it.
- Try practising with an app or borrowing a friend’s first if it’s a big purchase! Also, there isn’t anything wrong with using ‘cheap’ materials! You don’t need the most expensive stuff, get creative!
- Don’t worry too much if they don’t work out! They don’t have to be a lifetime commitment, it’s pretty normal to do a hobby for a couple years, stop for any number of reasons like cost or feeling burned out, and come back to it later in life.