The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on people’s mental health. Fear of getting the virus has affected people internally. Government restrictions on getting together in large groups have made people feel anxious, depressed, and lonely. Research shows that having a hobby can lower anxiety levels, minimize stress, and prevent some mental health issues.
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Losing Interest in Things and Poor Mental Health
Anhedonia is losing joy in the things that you typically enjoy. This is one side of poor mental health. It is a common symptom that a person is experiencing depression. In some cases, losing joy in the things you normally love to do can indicate how severe depression could impact your life in the future.
Social prescribing is a technique that medical professionals may use on individuals who have mild to moderate depression. This is where they encourage people to take up nonmedical interventions, like a hobby, with the goal of improving their mental health. This is because antidepressants may not be as effective on individuals who have mild depression. Taking the time to find things you are interested in and that please you is one way of avoiding this precursor to depression. This strategy of finding hobbies or getting involved in other activities can help people with depression to find relief from their symptoms.
The Reward Mechanism of Hobbies
An excellent reason for finding hobbies is how they affect the way your brain perceives rewards. If you do a hobby that you enjoy, chemical messages are sent to the brain in the form of dopamine. Dopamine helps you feel pleasure. The feel-good chemicals you get when you do something that you like make you want to do the hobby again with greater motivation.
Even if you don’t feel like starting a hobby, your brain will begin to associate the hobby with pleasure over time. This will get your reward system going and create a chain reaction of increased motivation.
Other benefits come from doing hobbies. For example, physical hobbies improve your fitness. Hobbies that require the use of cognitive skills can improve your brain function. Research indicates that hobbies like playing a musical instrument can improve your memory and spending time on hobbies like art or puzzle solving may be able to lower your chances of dementia.
To be clear, no one is saying that hobbies are the cure-all for mental illness. However, engaging in a hobby can be part of a comprehensive plan to address depression and other mental health challenges.
Restructure How You Use Your Time
People may not pursue hobbies because they feel that they don’t have enough time for them. It is true that people are busy with their work. However, it is still possible to find time each week to schedule hobbies.
There is such a large variety of hobbies available that you can find one that works with your schedule with a little bit of effort. Your hobby may be getting up in the morning and going for a run. You may take up pin collecting and set the goal to fill up your pin collector case with your favorite Star Trek pins. Or you may be even more ambitious and strive to learn a musical instrument.
You need to be mindful of what you are already doing in your free time and consider how it is impacting your mental health. You may be surprised how much free time you dedicate to sitting in front of the television, using the computer, or playing video games. Once you dedicate time to pursue your hobbies and you see the positive impact your hobbies have on your mental health, you may be more likely to stick with them long-term.
It is essential to separate a hobby from the desire to be productive. Modern society is achievement-oriented. It can be challenging to switch off the idea of needing to meet a deadline. Your hobbies should be low pressure and relaxing.
Hobbies can benefit your well-being and your mental health. They are a great way to express yourself and challenge yourself in a healthy way. It can be difficult to get started with a hobby. Once you start, the rewards can be lifelong.