Learning a new skill, taking up a hobby and spending time with friends and family can do more than just relieve boredom. No matter your age, trying new things and enriching your personal knowledge has many benefits.
Hobbies and mental health
Hobbies are the things we do that we don’t have to. Activities such as photography, drawing, and model-making give the mind a chance to pull away from the everyday and refocus its energy. An hour doing something you love can boost your mood and can even slow the effects of aging on the brain, according to Schooled by Science.
Other hobbies you can learn that offer mental health benefits include creative writing, yoga and gardening. But don’t feel as though you’re limited to traditional pastimes: sand sculpting, rock collecting, and even canning food are all things you can learn to do at home.
The social side
Engaging in new pursuits is also a great way to socialize, which is important for your mental health. Loneliness is one of the worst feelings and being cut off from the outside world can take a toll on your mind and body. The New York Times recently posted an article outlining the serious physical health effects of loneliness and reports that social isolation elevates the body’s stress hormone levels and may lead to dementia. Hobbies that encourage human connection include volunteering and stage acting.
If you’re interested in picking up a new hobby but don’t want to go it alone, there are plenty of group pursuits that will interest your entire family or network of friends. Check with your local arts council, craft store, or art museum to see what programs are available nearby; you may be able to get a discounted group rate if you have five or more participants.
Functional fitness and traditional exercise
Hobbies that encourage movement are especially important for those of us who’ve seen more sunrises than we care to admit. Seniors, especially, can benefit from physical activities. Birdwatching and gardening both require active time outdoors but can be modified to your own personal fitness level. If you’re struggling with addiction, some hobbies, such as dancing, can even aid your recovery because they allow you to socialize in a healthy setting.
If you find that you enjoy group fitness, you can take things a step further by incorporating education into your social time. Most local parks offer ranger-led hikes, photography excursions and other nature-based activities that combine friendship with fun and knowledge.
Speaking of nature-based hobbies, creating a garden is a good way to fit exercise and fresh air into your schedule. However, don’t get fooled into thinking you have to do something elaborate; you can begin by planting a tree or a few bushes, then move on to growing vegetables. Do what works best for you, especially if you suffer from any mobility or health issues.
Of course, if you want to do things the old-fashioned way, you can always head out to the local gym. And while springing for a gym membership might sound expensive and a little intimidating, you don’t have to worry about additional fees if you’re a senior enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. Many of these plans, which are offered by private insurers like UnitedHealthcare, provide access to fitness facilities in your area for free. So, take a look at your policy to see what’s available.
Leisure activities aren’t just for fun. The people you meet and the skills you develop while learning and participating in a hobby can help in your professional endeavors. Group learning can open up a network of potential clients or contacts and all hobbies keep your mind sharp, which will benefit you at work.
When you prefer to fill in your downtime with individual activities, woodworking and playing an instrument are good options. You can learn these on your own via online lessons or take private lessons from a music school, although the latter option may be expensive. Piano lessons, for example, can cost up to $60 an hour. Whether you pursue a personal pleasure for the friendship or to get your life back on track after addiction, there is no wrong time to pick up a new hobby. The benefits you receive now will stay with you for life.
Author: Brad Krause