(Model) Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Hobbying and Mental Health
Adopting a hobby can have a wide multitude of benefits. Not only is it an enjoyable use of your time, but it also helps reduce stress, improves your mood, and challenges your brain.
According to a 2013 article published by the New York Daily News, having hobbies such as traveling and reading can help you keep your mind engaged and boost your mental health as you age. The study, conducted by Concordia University in Montreal, found that among 333 seniors, those who acquired hobbies post-retirement had sharper cognitive skills and more happiness over time. But having hobbies isn’t only beneficial for the elderly.
A 2007 article published by the New York Times interviewed a range of experts and discussed the relationship between having a hobby and positive brain functions. According to Dr. S. Ausim Azizi, chairman of the department of neurology at Temple University’s School of Medicine in Philadelphia, having an enjoyable hobby activates the part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens. This part of the brain controls how we feel about life. Hobbies also stimulate what is known as the brain’s septal zone, also known as the “feel good area.” Essentially, hobbies give you purpose and make you feel good.
Hobbies can also help enhance creativity and sharpen your focus. Carol Kauffman, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School told the New York Times that hobbies will help you to "lose your sense of time and enter what’s called a flow state, and that restores your mind and energy."
Even if you believe that you are “too busy” or don’t have time for a hobby, chances are that if you cut out habitual time-wasters such as Facebook, Netflix or Twitter, time will avail itself. A 2015 article published by Psychology Today states that there has been a decline in civic engagement over the past few generations due to these modern time sucking habits. The article continues by outlining a few more key benefits of having an active hobby. They help you to structure your time, foster new social connections and help make you more interesting. They also help us cope with stress and help with our overall well-roundedness as a person.
Rather than identifying yourself by your job, position, or title, hobbies allow you to see yourself as more multi-faceted. This helps reduce stress and a potentially destructive self-image if things aren't going well at work. Conversely, if things are going well on the job it is not simply due to your ability to perform the task well, but your overall ability as a multi-faceted individual.
A 2014 article published by Business Insider argues that having a hobby can help you to “clear the mental palate.” Doing a repetitive task that utilizes a bilateral rhythmic motion—such as knitting—helps to induce a relaxing meditative state that can help to release daily stress. Completing a project also helps to build confidence over time, boosting your self-esteem.
Hobbies such as art, woodworking, and sewing can even help someone who is recovering from addiction refocus. A 2012 article by Christine Junge, the former editor of Harvard Health Publications, outlines that a “natural recoverer” from addiction often finds a hobby, challenge or relationship that can help fill the void left by the addiction. If someone in recovery decides to go to a yoga class, for example, the exercise will release endorphins which will help rewire the brain away from substance use. Working with animals is another common hobby for those in addiction. Dog training, for example, can help to release stress and provide exercise. Dog training can also foster positive relationships with other people, as do many other hobbies.
Whether it's knitting, dog training or building model airplanes, hobbies provide numerous benefits to people in all walks of life.
Submitted by Maria Cannon