A few weeks ago, my husband and I were talking about each of us wanting to find our “thing”. Are you with us in feeling disappointed that you get pretty worn out and lost in the daily grind? That you don’t have many hobbies?
The day-to-day toil can make us feel like we’re bored and stuck in an endless cycle of tension and anxiety. This is why it’s important to have hobbies for stress relief. Personally, I still have yet to find my “thing” but, blogging has been a fun creative outlet lately, so maybe it eventually will be!
The reason for finding a hobby or two is to have something to do that is fun, fulfilling, and a way to alleviate stress. It seems like a cheesy topic, and right away, my mind goes to this clip of Portlandia…
So, let’s jump right into talking about using hobbies to reduce stress. Whether you prefer to get creative, physical, or just relax, I can guarantee there’s a thing out there for you.
What kind of stressed are you?
Stress seems to be a feeling that we are all pretty familiar with. It’s the irritation when traffic moves slowly in front of you when you’re rushing last minute to reach a work deadline, or dealing with a family emergency.
Stress can be due to big, traumatic life events, as well as small daily challenges. Stress can also be short-term (acute), or lasting (chronic) stress, which can negatively impact your health.
There are endless definitions of stress, but my favorite is from Dr. Kelly McGonical, “stress is what arises in your brain and body when something you care about is at stake.” Stress isn’t also always negative, it can be a positive motivator that gets us to take action.
Distress, on the other hand, is chronic stress that comes from an overload of stressors, not coping with stress, or not having the support or resources to deal with the stress. This is the type of stress that can have long-term negative effects on both physical and mental health.
We don’t necessarily want a no/low-stress life, because then there’s a pretty low drive to get moving or go do something.
The goal of stress reduction is then two-fold:
- Self-awareness and management of stressors, which are stress triggers
- Protect the body and mind from the stress response, which is the physical and emotional response to stressors
For example, traffic is a huge stressor to me (a classic type-A personality that hates every inconvenience and having to wait). So in reducing the stress from traffic, I would acknowledge that traffic triggers a response in my body and mind.
Then, I could plan around sitting in traffic when possible, AND also have strategies to help my body calm down to prevent the fight or flight response, AND have ways to release the surge of hormones that inevitably follow the annoying honking.
Reducing stress isn’t as simple as taking a few deep breaths or meditating. It’s developing healthy coping skills and daily habits to increase your resilience to handle stress, as well as learning about tools to release physical stress from your body.
Hobbies for Stress Relief
Spending time doing something you enjoy is a proven way to reduce stress and boost mood. While most hobbies aren’t a direct stress management technique, they can improve physical and mental health, as well as provide an often-needed escape.
Hobbies are a mental break from stress. When you’re immersed in a project or sport, you’re likely not thinking about what is causing you stress. That mental break gives your mind a chance to work behind the scenes to come up with solutions.
Have you experienced a shower epiphany before? While showering isn’t really a hobby, it’s an example of how our brain needs time for reflection and creativity. When our mind is allowed to wander, new connections are made, and sometimes problems solve themselves.
Hobbies are also great because they’re a chance to create order from chaos. Popular activities like cooking, gardening, or painting transform into a finished product. This generates a feeling of accomplishment and control, which can boost self-esteem.
Having a go-to activity is also fun and gives you an opportunity to play and have fun. As adults, so many of our days are full of work and responsibilities, and we rarely have a chance to slow down and be present with joy.
Lastly, hobbies can provide a healthy balance to life by offering a way to relax and recharge. They can be an important part of our identity by providing us with a community, a sense of fulfillment, and personal growth.
List of Stress-Relieving Hobbies
Rather than jump right into a game of pick-up basketball or curl up with a good book, first think about what kind of activity will be most beneficial to what you need right now.
If you’re feeling out of control and overwhelmed, try a creative hobby.
If you’ve been getting stress headaches, and feeling tense and anxious, a physical hobby would be a good way to release the tension caused by stress.
If you’re on edge, exhausted, and/or not sleeping well, a calming hobby could feel amazing.
Here’s a list of stress-relieving hobbies to consider adding to your days!
- Art – painting, drawing, pottery, photography
- Gardening, caring for houseplants, landscaping
- Cooking or baking
- Crafting – knitting, crocheting, sewing, making jewelry, DIY projects
- Writing- creative writing, blogging
- Music – singing, playing an instrument, songwriting, DJ’ing
- Exercise – running, yoga, weight training, spinning, pilates
- Outdoors – hiking, rock climbing, biking
- Sports – volleyball, basketball, softball, pickleball, tennis
- Dance – hip hop, ballet, salsa
- Skateboarding, roller skating
- Snowboarding, skiing
- Surfing, paddleboarding
- Reading or listening to audiobooks
- Meditating or mindfulness practices
- Listening to music
- Playing games
- Playing with and taking care of pets
- Spa – bath, massage, nails, skincare
Additionally, if you’re seeking connection, want support from others, or are feeling lonely, having a group activity or inviting friends or family to join would multiply the benefits of doing something fun and enjoyable!
How to Find the Time
Remember how we talked about finding the time for self-care? Well, finding time for stress-relieving hobbies isn’t much different. It might feel more challenging because it’s normal for them to feel less necessary and easily slide off the list of priorities when other things come up.
Goal setting can be a good way to turn motivation and inspiration into action. Rather than thinking about doing something, set a goal and set yourself up for success. Don’t forget the mindset aspect!
Some ideas for motivating hobby goals:
- I will learn how to play the guitar by the end of this year.
- I will complete a painting each week to experiment with new colors and techniques.
- I will share my passion for gardening by volunteering at the community garden once a month.
- I will join a local book club to meet new people and read more books.
Try scheduling hobby time into your weekly routine. Whether it’s a few minutes or a block of time on the weekend, make it a priority. Lately, we’re experimenting with Saturday morning pickleball with friends and reading in the evenings.
Having it on the calendar (for the weekend) and a gentle phone reminder to turn the TV off (in the evenings) is a huge help.
The beauty of hobbies is that there is something for everyone, and there’s no pressure! Don’t be afraid to try new things until you find what clicks. It might be hard at first, but when something brings you joy and makes you feel good, that’s a good sign.
The Bottom Line
Stress is a feeling that affects all of us. When not managed, there can be short-term and longer-term impacts on our health. The more we understand our stress and develop healthy coping skills, the less harmful it is.
Hobbies can play a big role in reducing stress by providing:
- A mental break
- A sense of accomplishment
- A healthy balance in life
- An escape from stressors
- An end to the physiological stress cycle (I highly recommend reading more about this in Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski.)
With endless creative, physical, and relaxing hobbies to choose from, it’s important to choose one (or a few) stress-relieving hobbies that will be most beneficial to your current stress needs.
Now’s your chance! Take a break, get lost in a hobby, and feel the stress melt away.