A hobby is characterized by any leisure activity a person may participate in simply for pleasure or relaxation, on occasions when they are free from the demands of work and other responsibilities (Pressman, Matthews, et al., 2009). A wide variety of activities can be hobbies, including such common pastimes as gardening, crafting, knitting, reading, playing games, taking up a musical instrument, and all kinds of sports and physical fitness pursuits.
While many people may associate such activities with mere frivolity, a vast body of research has revealed a clear connection between the routine adoption of leisurely pursuits and improved mental health (Cronin, 2020). A reduction in depression, improvements to physical health, as well as a reduction in social isolation and loneliness have all been associated with the habit (Cronin, 2020).
To understand more on the link between hobbies and mental health, we will examine research on the subject more closely.
Research Reveals the Benefits of Leisurely Pursuits
For the last many years, an ample number of studies have explored the benefits of adopting such healthful behaviours as committing to a solid sleep schedule, eating a balanced and nutritious diet, and the removal of harmful habits such as smoking and inactivity. Yet researchers in 2009 noted a clear absence of studies devoted to the health implications of taking up a routine pastime. Those researchers endeavoured to examine whether engaging in various types of hobbies might be associated with better psychological and physiological functioning (Pressman, Matthews, et al., 2009).
The results of that study concluded a definitive connection between “enjoyable leisure activities and psychosocial and physical measures relevant for health and wellbeing,” with findings based on a self-report measure from participants. A lower resting blood pressure was noted in people who took up hobbies regularly, along with lower rates of depression, and a higher level of psychosocial positive state (Pressman, Matthews, et al., 2009).
Both Creative and Physical Leisure Activities Can offer Wellbeing Benefits
Those seeking a wellness counsellor career will be interested in the vast number of studies conducted on the subject since that time, with many researchers attempting to reveal the mental health benefits deriving from specified forms of hobbies. As an example, a 2015 Journal of Leisure Sciences study found that people participating in team sports were less likely to develop mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress. The same study also revealed that people in a 25-34 age category who did not partake in some form of team sport were twice as likely to experience depression over the course of a year (Fenton et al., 2015).
Other research has succeeded in demonstrating a clear link between more creative leisurely activities and improved wellbeing. One 2010 study revealed that pursuits in music, visual arts, movement-based creative expression such as dance, and expressive writing were all artistic engagements associated with significant positive effects on health and wellbeing (Stuckey, Nobel, 2010). The study concluded that all four categories of artistic engagement were associated with a decrease in anxiety, stress, and other mood disturbances (Stuckey, Nobel, 2010).
A 2016 Australian study appears to corroborate these findings, revealing that adults participating in artistic hobbies for more than 100 hours a year had much better health than participants without a routine pastime (CBHS Health, 2020). Many studies have revealed a strong connection between expressive writing in particular and its ability to help people overcome negative emotions that may follow on from grief, a poor medical diagnosis, or from past traumatic events such as physical or mental abuse (Medical News Today, 2020).
Why Hobbies Are Thought to Positively Influence Mental Health
There are various theories that attempt to explain the connection between the participation in hobbies and an improved state of mental health. Leisure scientists have pointed to the effect any kind of enjoyable hobby can have for encouraging feelings of positivity, thus serving to refresh the mind to better cope with common stressors in daily life (Pressman, Matthews, et al., 2009). In this school of thought, the hobby serves as a method of helping the mind “switch off” from stressful thought.
Other researchers point to the benefit of focusing on the holistic nature of the person when analyzing various mental states, noting that sufferers of various conditions can often find a reserve for healing through creativity and imagination (Stuckey, Nobel, 2010). Research appears to indicate such a reserve for mental healing may also be achieved through sport and physical activity. A U.S. study looking at over 1 million participants revealed a clear “correlation between a higher frequency of regular physical exercise and fewer days on which mental health was not good.”(Elbe, Lyhne, et al., 2019).
Why This Knowledge Will Serve Those Seeking a Wellness Counsellor Career
Once you receive your wellness counsellor diploma and begin pursuing a career in this field, you are likely to encounter clients suffering from many different kinds of mental health challenges. Your role in working with different clients will be to find various strategies they may attempt in the pursuit of facilitating wellness in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of their lives.
Your clients may not be aware of the existing research that clearly points to a connection between the pursuit of leisure activities and improved mental health. You can discuss these findings with them to place an emphasis on the use of hobbies as a highly relevant strategy for achieving a better quality of life.
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Sarah D. Pressman, Karen A. Matthews, et al (2009). Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2863117/
Cronin, Emma (2020). Find Your Feelgood and Improve Your Health With a Hobby. Retrieved from https://www.axahealth.co.uk/health-information/mental-health/resilience/improve-your-health-with-a-hobby/#:~:text=A%20growing%20body%20of%20research,reduce%20social%20isolation%20and%20loneliness.
Lara Fenton, Catherine White, et al. (2015). The Benefits of Recreation for the Recovery and Social Inclusion of Individuals with Mental Illness: An Integrative Review. Retrieved from https://www.cbhs.com.au/mind-and-body/blog/finding-a-hobby-can-improve-your-mental-health
Kartchner, John (2018). A lesson from Winston Churchill on how change is the key to de-stress and unwind. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@jkartchner28/a-lesson-from-winston-churchill-on-how-change-is-the-key-to-de-stress-and-unwind-d42f83e2f094
Heather L. Stuckey & Jeremy Nobel (2010). The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804629/
CBHS Health (2020). Finding a hobby can improve your mental health. Retrieved from https://www.cbhs.com.au/mind-and-body/blog/finding-a-hobby-can-improve-your-mental-health
Medical News Today (2020). What Are the Health Benefits of Being Creative? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320947
Anne-Marie Elbe, Stine NylandstedLyhne, et al. (2019) Is regular physical activity a key to mental health? Commentary on “Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1.2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: A cross-sectional study”, by Chekroud et al., published in Lancet Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6349619/
Jürgen Unützer & Mijung Park (2012). Strategies to Improve the Management of Depression in Primary Care. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4127627/