We live in a hectic time. The way we live, work and socialize has never been more fast-paced. We are cornered with pressures from all sorts of sources, and stress is a part of almost everyone’s daily routine.
Even though it’s common, it doesn’t mean that stress is harmless and something you just have to “live with“.
According to medical experts, stress is the cause of dozens of chronic illnesses. It’s also been dubbed the silent killer by experts in the medical domain.
When you look at it that way, it’s not so clear why our culture takes stress as something that’s normal and common.
Just take smoking cigarettes as a similar example. In times not so long ago, in the 1950’s, people weren’t even aware that nicotine and other substances in cigarettes were harmful.
After medical authorities confirmed that smoking causes cancer, stroke and many other diseases, the public completely turned around its opinion on cigarettes.
Now, as we know, governments and health initiatives go to great lengths to prevent people, especially youth, from smoking.
We had almost the same findings of the harms of stress, yet there hasn’t been a real turnaround in public opinion and national actions.
That’s why it’s important that every individual takes this matter into their own hands and learns how to manage stress better with stress-relieving hobbies.
If you don’t have an outlet yet, this article will bring you helpful suggestions on which stress relieving hobbies to include in your daily routine.
These activities have been scientifically proven to lower the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase of serotonin and endorphin (happiness hormones).
When we talk about activities that can reduce stress and have a myriad of benefits for your physical and mental health, it’s impossible not to mention yoga.
Yoga is also the most common recommendation you will get from physicians, health experts, and even psychologists.
It’s an exercise activity that connects the body, mind, and spirit – which is an important premise for managing stress levels.
Next to physical exercise this activity brings, it also incorporates breathing and focus exercises.
A common misconception around this activity is that you have to be good at yoga in order to practice it. Of course, this is totally false.
The road to becoming good at yoga is actually starting from scratch, making mistakes and improving from there.
Another misconception is that yoga is done at a professional studio with mats, candles and Tibetan music. This is how it’s usually portrayed in the media, movies and TV shows.
For many people who lack the time to join a yoga group session, it’s discouraging to even start.
However, it’s absolutely OK to do yoga at home, by yourself. Of course, when you’re first starting out, it would be good to practice it in the presence of an expert who can point to some mistakes you’re doing.
Nevertheless, you can do yoga at home and reduce your stress levels significantly.
For some people, the effects on stress reduction from yoga start already from the first session. Still, if you’re not among these people, it’s important to be patient and carry on even if you don’t feel instant results.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Building on the practice of yoga, meditation is one of the most important stress-relieving hobbies that will help you manage depression, anxiety, and other emotional issues.
Meditation and mindfulness have been scientifically proven to reduce stress – along with thousands of empirical testimonies by regular practitioners.
According to research, only 10 minutes of meditation each day is enough to feel the effects and benefits of your emotional state.
If you’re a beginner, you can easily start by following guided meditation videos and tapes. You can find hundreds of those on YouTube and other platforms – just search for “stress-relieving guided mediation”.
Painting and Drawing
Painting is a hobby that’s shrouded with most myths and misconceptions of all other relaxation activities.
Most people believe that you have to be talented and skilled if you want to draw or paint. You can often hear many people say “I don’t know how to draw”.
Remember, not everything has to be a competition. You can enjoy the activity of painting and drawing without your painting ending up in a museum.
How can painting positively impact stress levels?
Well, stress is closely linked to verbal thoughts and ruminations (see chapter: Writing & Journaling).
When you’re painting, it’s one of the rare activities that allow you to step back from these circular thoughts and worries and think in a visual way.
In order to create something from nothing, you will have to think as an artist thinks. For example, if you’re doing a still nature painting, you will have to look at and study all the intricacies of a scene that usually goes unnoticed.
This is another form of mindfulness and meditation. So, let go of your worries and focus on what’s right in front of you!
You can simply start venturing into the world of art by closely observing a sight and trying to transfer it onto a piece of paper or canvas.
In the previous chapters, we focused on activities that calm the body, mind, and spirit – but what about fast-paced, energy-consuming cardio workouts?
However unintuitive it may be, cardio is one of the most important stress-relieving hobbies practiced by millions around the world.
The link between stress reduction and cardio lies in correlations of origins of stress in extra energy build-ups.
In other words, experts believe that a body that doesn’t provide an outlet for physical energy will have to channel that energy into intense emotions – i.e. stress, fear, anxiety, sadness, etc.
Here are some of the best cardio workout suggestions that not only burn calories but also stress and worries:
- Running – ask any runner and they will swear in the power of running for controlling emotional issues. There’s also an additional perk of the ‘runner’s high’ – a rush of endorphins that sets in after a good run.
- Power walking – if you’re not much of a runner, you can achieve similar effects with brisk walks.
Just make sure you do them regularly and that you maintain a high speed of walking. This activity will also keep you outdoors, which is another stress-relieving factor.
- Boxing – if you work in a high-stress environment where you spend most of the day in a static position, boxing is a great way to get rid of the negative energy and start moving.
- Swimming – swimming has a tremendous effect on stress management and overall health.
It’s one of the most beneficial activities and stress-relieving hobbies out there.
- Team Sports – team sports like soccer, volleyball and basketball provide a cardio workout, but also connect you to other players.
Human connection can help in reducing stress, and team sports are a great way to get it while also getting your dose of exercise.
Writing and Journaling
Now, we have arrived in stress-relieving hobbies that you can easily do at home, anytime you want, without pressuring your body with physical effort (if you already have enough of it at work).
One of the best hobbies for managing stress levels is writing and journaling.
First, let’s take a look at the benefits of creative writing:
- a form of escapism: instead of binging TV shows, you can escape your everyday troubles by using your imagination and transporting yourself to your fantasy world
- imagination exercise: coping mechanisms for stress require strong imagination and visualization skills.
Creative writing significantly boosts your imagination and creativity and allows you to look at a situation from many different angles.
- clarifies thoughts: stress usually stems from disorganized, clustered thoughts that are subconsciously bothering you. Creative writing resolves this issue by teaching you how to organize thoughts and present ideas more effectively.
“Creative writing has therapeutic benefits, which is why it is often used as a form of art therapy. Just imagine how much can you benefit from it if it’s a part of your daily routine.
Stress always needs an outlet, and writing is one of the healthiest ways to express your feelings”Kylie Jones, a writer at TopEssayWriting and ClassyEssay.
The other form of writing as a stress-relieving hobby is journaling. Journaling is a process of jotting down your daily events and your feelings surrounding them.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula on how journaling should be done. You can analyze your emotions in-depth or simply list your daily activities. The important thing is that you do it regularly and make it a habit.
Now, let’s take a look at how journaling reduces stress:
- Planning – if your commitments and obligations cause you stress, putting them down on paper can dramatically lower your stress levels. Any looming deadline seems a lot less scary if it’s clearly written down and planned out.
- Gratitude journaling – a huge chunk of your stress is related to worrying about the future and having a negative worldview.
If you have a gratitude journal, you will constantly remind yourself of all the positive things you’re surrounded with.
- Emotional response journaling – when you want to tackle stress head-on, you need to learn how to recognize your emotional responses before you can alter them. When you have a journal, you have a clear overview of which situations bother you and how you react to them.
- Solution brainstorming – whether you do it on purpose or not, your journal will most probably contain possible solutions to the issues that you’re worried about. This is a natural human response and it’s actually much more likely to be efficient if it’s written down systematically.
If you don’t like being in nature, surrounded by dirt and insects, gardening might seem like a stress-inducing activity.
Well, think again – because gardening has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to reconnect with nature and combat stress.
Being in contact with the earth while being outdoors at the same time is a tried-out recipe for relaxation and stress reduction.
“Many people believe that you need to have a green thumb to be a gardening person. However, this could not be further away from the truth.
Even if you know nothing about taking care of plants, a basic introduction to gardening will teach you a lot and equip you for success”, says Toni Lewis, a gardening enthusiast, and writer at BeGraded and Subjecto. Having a personal collection of plants you can be proud of, like variegated plants, will encourage you to take part in your hobby more.
DIY and Crafts
Crafting has never been more popular. With the rise of DIY platforms like Pinterest and Etsy, anyone can be a creator and do the planet a service by re-using and recycling.
At the same time, creating something out of nothing will have a great impact on your stress reduction efforts.
Just like other activities that we have mentioned, crafting allows you to “shut out” external, everyday problems and lets you focus on the process on hand.
Just like mindful meditation, crafting requires you to be absolutely present in the moment. While creating stuff yourself, you will have to find solutions, engage your creativity and find new ideas.
Music is one of the best stress-relieving hobbies, whether it’s singing, composing, playing an instrument or dancing. Music has a healing effect on the human psyche and can re-connect you to the present moment, teaching you how to enjoy every moment.
If you don’t play a musical instrument, learning how to play one can be a stress-relieving activity.
Many people think that this is hard and frustrating, but this is not actually how your brain perceives it.
Just like writing, painting and other forms of artistic expression, music allows you to use other parts of the brain and give your stress levels a break.
Simply listening to music can do a lot for stress improvement as well.
There have been scientific studies involving classical music that showed that listening to Mozart and other classical composers can have a beneficial effect on emotional health.
Of course, if you’re not a fan of orchestra and piano compositions, you can simply enjoy and jam out to your favorite genre of music – it’s an instant feel-better solution.
There is so much that you can do to reduce stress in your everyday life – it’s just important to be dedicated and do it regularly.
Remember, a hobby means a hobby and you don’t need to be the best at doing it to reap all the benefits that activity offers. Always make sure you enjoy yourself and use this time for your enjoyment and relaxation.
About the Author
Kristin Savage is a seasoned writer and editor passionate about ethical software development, mental health, and wellbeing. Kristin runs her own FlyWriting blog.