Some of the Main Types of Hobbies To Help You Relax and Have Fun

American culture tends to value busyness and productivity over leisure time and relaxation. According to research presented in the Harvard Business Review, those who are busy and work long hours are perceived as having higher status.

Yet, if you check current survey statistics on stress and low mood, it makes you wonder how well our values are serving our well-being. About 55% of Americans report feeling stressed during the day and roughly 22% report a variety of mood-related symptoms.

Interestingly, the happiest countries in the world appear to value leisure more than we do as they’re among the countries with the shortest work weeks, according to World Populations Review.

What do people do when they have time for rest and restoration?

They participate in hobbies. Remember those?

These hobbies may include:

  • gardening
  • baking
  • walking
  • jewelry making
  • fishing,
  • playing guitar
  • knitting

Activities like these are examples of hobbies that can help us relax, unwind, and get lost in simply being.

It turns out hobbies can play a critical role in our happiness. Research shows that participating in a hobby, even if you aren’t talented or skilled in your chosen hobby, can help reduce stress.

One study showed a 75% reduction in the stress hormone cortisol after participants engaged in the creative arts. Lowered stress hormones may indicate the activation of our body’s parasympathetic nervous system or the “rest and digest” response, which helps to counter stress.

Participating in hobbies can have multiple benefits by providing social engagement, reducing feelings of anxiousness, promoting relaxation, helping to boost mood, and engaging the brain’s reward system.

Here’s why it may be time to discover a new hobby or make a current one a high priority in your life.

What Is A Hobby?

If you’re all about work and achievement, you may not even know what a hobby is. So, let’s start with a definition from Merriam-Webster: a hobby is “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.”

The key points here are that a hobby is something other than your occupation, and it’s for relaxation.

A hobby essentially creates more breadth to your life, a bit like spreading your eggs into several baskets – as it provides you with a meaningful experience outside of your work identity.

A hobby also has a “for fun and for free” quality to it. There’s no expectation to perform, be the best, create a product, or make it into a business.

3 of the Main Types of Hobbies

There are different types of hobbies, including:

  • Creative
  • Intellectual
  • Therapeutic

Sometimes these types overlap, and they all have therapeutic value.

Creative hobbies – such as drawing, painting, making art, writing, songwriting, crafting, baking, woodworking, or quilting – engage the right side of your brain. Some creative hobbies require a certain level of mastery, which, over time, can activate something called a “flow state.” That’s when you’re fully immersed in an activity and get a feeling of energized focus and enjoyment.

Intellectual hobbies include pursuits that build neuroplasticity and strengthen your brain. These hobbies generally don’t create things but may involve brain games such as sudoku, crossword puzzles, or playing chess. They also may include physical exercise like ping pong (table tennis), pickleball, ballroom dancing, learning a new language or instrument, or simply reading.

Therapeutic hobbies are those that tend to provide a therapeutic or spiritual benefit, such as practicing meditation or yoga, biking, running, surfing, cooking, or volunteering to work with animals.

Bottom line: there’s an endless number of hobbies out there. A hobby can be anything you wish it to be. It might be walking on the beach, skipping stones on a lake, dancing, climbing challenging mountains, playing the ukelele, or carving wood trinkets.

If you experiment with your interests, you’re bound to find a few you’ll enjoy.

The Virtuous Cycle

Types of Hobbies 2 Looking at hobbies through the prism of brain health, reveals a virtuous cycle.

When you start a new hobby, you may not feel motivated to spend time on it. It might be difficult.

However, once you begin and feel the associated pleasure that comes with it, it triggers the brain’s rewards center. You get a hit of feel-good chemicals and you’re motivated to do it again.

This is especially beneficial for recovering addicts. Hobbies keep the reward system healthy!

There are many more benefits that can come from engaging in a hobby.

If you’re participating a team sport, you’ll have the benefit of social interaction in addition to the fitness benefits, which support your brain, body, and mood.

Developing an intellectual hobby is wonderful for brain health. For example, reading has been shown to protect against memory loss later in life. If you’re engrossed in a creative hobby, the flow state can deliver feel-good benefits.

Therapeutic hobbies will generally relax you and counter stress in your life. In fact, a San Francisco State study found that non-work creative activities helped employees recover from work stress and even boosted performance when they refocused on their job.

No Shame in Leisure Time

More than 100 years ago, having leisure time to pursue hobbies was a symbol of status. Perhaps it’s time to bring back a little of that mentality.

With the long days of summer upon us, it’s the perfect time to make pursuing hobbies fun again!

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Kim Henderson