9 easy hobbies to boost your physical and mental health, from journaling to urban hiking

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Aiden Wynn
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A woman painting flowers in watercolour

It’s no secret that growing up often means putting those extra things we used to do for fun and fulfilment to bed. Between the nine-to-five, home, and a packed social calendar, it’s hard to see where a hobby might fit. 

But hobbies are wonderful things, and they bring with them a whole raft of health benefits! Doing something simply for the love of doing it is pretty priceless on its own, but that’s far from the only upside to picking a hobby and sticking with it.

For one thing, research carried out in 2020 found that hobbies are linked with lower levels of depression. And why wouldn’t they be? According to the research by health sciences publisher Karger: “They provide distraction, novelty, cognitive stimulation, belongingness as well as enhancing coping skills and agency and (when engaged in as part of a group) provide social support, all of which are positively associated with mental health.” Plus, depending on what you pick, they can also teach you valuable new skills, enhance creativity, and boost your physical fitness.

Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that, in our fast-paced world, time is of the essence. Thankfully, though, there are plenty of hobbies that are easy to pick up and slot into our everyday lives, both at home and beyond. Here are just a few to consider adding to your repertoire.  

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"Painting is known to help relieve stress while improving memory, problem-solving and motor skills"

If you’ve ever decided that art just isn’t for you, it might be time to reconsider. Known to help relieve stress while improving memory, problem-solving and motor skills, activities like painting are exceptionally good for you. Painting is also easier to take up than it’s ever been, thanks to the boom in paint by numbers kits for adults. But don’t worry if painting really isn’t your thing – you can still feel the benefits with a mindfulness colouring book or even a sketchbook if you fancy letting your creative juices flow.

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Puzzling was, in many ways, the perfect activity to get into during lockdown. As well as taking time to complete, jigsaw puzzles help to keep the mind active, improving cognition and offering a mindful refuge from the chaos of the times. Beyond the confines of quarantine, all those benefits are still available, so why not give it a go? Easy to dip into whenever you have time to spare, jigsaw puzzles are also great for doing with a friend, family member or partner.

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Urban hiking 

Don’t live near green space? No problem. Urban hiking (also known as city hiking) is the latest obsession-worthy fitness trend for people who enjoy the outdoors. Great for getting your steps in and improving your physical fitness, urban hiking also gives you chance to explore the area you live in, from its prettiest parks to its coolest hidden landmarks.

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"Writing in a journal for just 15 minutes a day can be great for both your mental and physical health"

Writing in a journal for just 15 minutes a day can be great for both your mental and physical health. And, it’s a great way to put your thought processes to practical use and practise creativity in a small but meaningful way. Journaling is also ideal because there’s no one way to do it. Simply pick up an empty notebook and make a start, or treat yourself to dedicated journal and use the prompts to guide you.

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If you think a more practical hobby might suit you better, consider learning to sew. A great skill to have whenever pesky holes threaten to ruin your favourite clothes, it’s also a pretty immersive activity, and experts have found that this helps to relieve stress and even combat depression. Plus, there are plenty of different forms of sewing that you can try if you want to really channel your creativity, from cross-stitching to quilting. 

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The benefits of meditation are well documented, from stress reduction to improving your heart rate and blood pressure. So, whether you use an app, a YouTube video, or take time out to simply enjoy the peace and quiet, it’s worth making meditation a regular part of your daily routine.  

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Exercise classes 

exercise class with resistance an
"Exercise classes are the ideal way to up your fitness game in a fun and supportive environment"

Physical wellbeing is important, but it can also be kind of intimidating. Enter: exercise classes, the ideal way to up your fitness game in a fun and supportive environment. From yoga to Zumba to spinning and everything in between, your local gym is likely to offer at least one class that piques your interest. 

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Learning sign language

With thousands of world languages to choose from, settling on just one to learn isn’t always easy. So, consider giving sign language a go! There are plenty of online resources to help you on your way. Not only will it give you the opportunity to learn a new skill, learning sign language will also help you to better communicate with the approximately 11 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing.

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With only the help of a practice book, some online resources, and a set of brush pens, you can learn the ancient art of calligraphy. An immensely satisfying and impressive skill to have in your arsenal, learning calligraphy can also boost mental health and brain function. Plus, it could save you a bit of money when it comes to creating gorgeous invites. What’s not to love?  

Image credit: Unsplash

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Aiden Wynn

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