- Mental Health
Great Stress Relieving Hobbies
Stress is a leading cause of illness and even death. Physical ailments like heart disease and stroke are often linked to stress-filled lifestyles. Stress that is not managed over time can become debilitating, ruining quality of life and destroying hopes and dreams. Excess stress is often the precursor to depression, anxiety and even panic disorders. When the body is under constant stress, the continued “fight of flight” response stresses the adrenal glands that are responsible for managing hormone levels throughout the body.
Our modern lifestyles tend to leave many people feeling stressed for a variety of reasons. We are constantly bombarded with social media, news tickers, long work hours, poor diet and other pressures that cause stress to build in the body to toxic levels. Many have been chronically stressed for so long that they assume stress is “normal” and they don't do much to address it until it leads to serious problems.
Hobbies are not only important for enjoyment, but the are necessary to improve your health! There are many excellent hobbies, however there are some that are especially good for relieving stress and easing anxiety. Here is a list of ten fantastic leisure activities that can help you create more peace in your life and release the effects of excessive stress.
Gardening to Relieve Stress
Planting a garden is a great way to relieve stress for several reasons. Natural sunlight exposure can help improve mood. Digging in the dirt and creating the garden is good exercise and it also connects you to the Earth. This has a grounding effect that helps ease anxious, racing thoughts and anxiety. As you dig, plant, and maintain your garden you start to feel connected to what matters.
You can use your garden to grow food, or use it to create a haven where you feel at peace. Many people grow specialty gardens that include things like water features for an even more calming effect. A butterfly garden is a great way to beautify your surroundings while providing a habitat for one of nature's loveliest creatures.
Add a hummingbird feeder, bird baths, rock formations, seating, lighting or other features to your garden area to make it a truly special place. Every time you add on to your garden you'll be creating your own zen place free from the stress of the outer world. It's a way to be outdoors and retreat to your inner sanctuary at the same time.
Needle Crafts Ease Anxiety and Restore Focus
My mother has long been a fiber arts enthusiast and she insists it is the best therapy for stress and anxiety. She cards wool, spins it into yarn and then knits. She says the hobby requires just enough focus that you keep your attention on what you are doing, but is not so complicated that it creates more stress.
The repetitive motion of spinning the wheel and creating the stitches calms the mind and soothes the soul. This hobby can also be useful for other reasons. Consider creating homemade hats, socks, or scarves as gifts for family members or friends.
You can also knit prayer shawls for charity. This activity is rewarding on many levels. The prayer shawls are knitted while focusing on prayer or sending positive energy to the recipient – usually someone with a serious illness or who is in chemo where they tend to get cold. The blankets or shawls are then given away to those who need them. This is a great way to pour positive energy into a project and that allows you to recenter and to count your blessings along with your stitches.
My close friend is a nurse on a psychiatric ward. She insists that crochet helps her unwind after a long evening dealing with patients. She works on her project for awhile every night until she's tired and able to sleep.
Yoga for Full and Present Awareness
My favorite stress-relief hobby combines two important aspects of health – physical exercise and meditation. Yoga can be invigorating or relaxing depending on the poses you choose. It is a great way to shift your concentration to the here and now, to focus on breath and really becoming one with your body, mind and spirit simultaneously. Studies have shown that the full and present awareness that comes with a meditative state relieves stress very well. It is often recommended by therapists for patients who deal with anxiety disorders and depression.
Poses are customizable and can be modified to be easier initially. This allows people to work up to the more difficult poses gradually and hold them longer. Some of my personal favorites are warrior pose, sunrise salutation and tree pose. I love the full body stretch, the improved balance and increased physical strength yoga provides in addition to the stress release.
Maintaining an Aquarium to Melt Stress
Not all of us are fortunate enough to live by the seashore. Water is one of the most soothing things on the planet and an aquarium can be a great way to bring some of that serenity home.
Aquariums can work well in your living area and even in the bedroom. The sound of the bubbling water and the soothing motion of the fish as they swim is very relaxing. It's easy to gaze into an aquarium and lose yourself – which of course melts away the stress of the day. Add a little zen to your living area or even your office with an aquarium.
Swim Stress Away
Sticking to the water theme, swimming is a fantastic stress buster. It is great exercise, easy on the joints and also very relaxing. If you have a pool, take a dip daily or sign up for a local pool membership and try to go swim some laps during odd hours when there aren't many people around. If you live near the ocean or other safe body of water, even better. Swim or sit quietly by the shore regularly to relax and unwind.
Quiet time in the water clears the mind, works the body and releases feel good endorphins that beat stress and anxiety. Water aerobics and yoga poses are another great way to get some exercise and release tension.
Cooking to Combat Stress
OK, so stress eating is not a good habit, however for those who enjoy cooking, preparing a lovely meal can be a great way to relieve tension. Try preparing a new recipe or creating your own. Cook a beautiful meal, then take time to sit at the table with no distractions and truly enjoy it with a loved one or with the whole family.
Meals that are prepared with love are the best kind. How many of us associate beautiful times in our past with the service of a lovely meal and surrounded by real conversation? If you've spent too much time microwaving your meals and texting at the table or eating in front of the TV; take a day and prepare a great meal and enjoy a true dining experience.
The act of cooking gives you something else to focus on. Go to a farmer's market or high quality store and pick out the best ingredients. The anticipation of sharing the meal with those you love releases happy endorphins as you prepare the meal. Sharing an evening with those you love helps you forget about all the troubles of the world for awhile and get back to what truly matters.
This comprehensive video is a seminar that covers a wealth of information on stress, its effects and management techniques.
Woodworking to Relieve Stress
For many, the act of building something with the hands and using tools is a great way to not only relieve stress, but produce something useful. Many times, we talk ourselves out of hobbies we enjoy, because we feel our time would be better spent doing something “productive”. This is a hobby that allows you to do both.
My husband has recently taken to creating things out of wood pallets. We have a wine box that is lovely and a set of shelves with hooks for our antique bath upstairs. When he's tense, he takes on one of these projects and you can tell by the time he's finished the stress has vanished and he's totally relaxed and smiling.
There is something about creating something, whether it be something practical or a work of art, that helps relieve stress. Focusing on what you are doing is part of it, because it calms the mind. The other half I think is the sense of accomplishment and pride in one's work that boosts the mood.
Write Your Worries Away - Journals for Stress Relief
Writing in a journal is a great way to express emotions rather than keeping them bottled up inside. Journals can be handwritten, or there are software programs available that allow you to keep a digital journal. The benefits to this are the ability to password protect your journal for privacy and back it up so you don't have to worry about losing what you've written. Many find typing is faster than writing out their thoughts also, so it encourages keeping it a regular habit.
Journals are highly personal and can be customized to meet your needs. Some like to write their feelings out, others like to draw or collage to express themselves. However you choose to do it, journaling is not just a great way to release emotions and keep track of thoughts and ideas, it's also a great way to look back down the line and see how far you have come.
Invest in a journal that you can't wait to use. A beautiful, handcrafted journal that is refillable is a great choice, because you can move pages around or store old pages and refill it again to create a brand new journal. I love journals like the one above with the luxurious handmade paper. When it's a real treasure, you're more likely to keep up with the positive habit of journaling. :)
Scrapbooking to Refocus and Reduce Stress
Sometimes when we feel under a lot of pressure, it's a good idea to take time to refocus on things that make us joyful. A scrapbook is a great way to use photos and other mementos of happy times to create something unique and special.
You get the benefit of reliving the happy memories, combined with the stress relief of focusing on a creative project. Scrapbooks can be a lot of fun and they can be an individual or group project with the kids.
Relieve Stress with Up-cycling or Restoration
Nothing fires me up like spending a few minutes (or hours, ahem) on Pinterest looking at all the creative ways people reuse, redo and renew old items. I have seen stunning furniture born out of trash heap items. People reuse all sorts of things and give them new purpose. I've seen gardens out of old tires – and they were actually cute! I've seen pallets, broken plates, scrap paper and all sorts of assorted oddities turned into beautiful things.
The creative inspiration is great for relieving stress. Challenging yourself to try something new can be a great way to reignite passion and spark that are often lost during periods of intense stress or anxiety. Sometimes the simple act of starting a project will instantly make a world of difference.
I've created all sorts of things from inspirations. I've turned old coffee cans into lanterns, old pallets into shelves, I've repainted and refinished some old furniture pieces and given them away. I even restored old photographs and put them on wood blocks as gifts. Creativity is a great way to beat the blues that come with stress.