Mental Health Hobbies

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Whether it’s tai chi or the trumpet… pursuing a passion has so many benefits for your well-being.

It’s not always easy to find free time in the busyness of day-to-day life. Yet, the time when you’re disengaged from your usual obligations – like looking after grandkids or doctor’s appointments – can offer an opportunity to indulge in activities you genuinely enjoy.

Having a hobby is more than just doing something fun – it’s about dedicating time and energy to something that brings you joy and ignites your passions. It’s about being engaged, which can help feed our need for meaning and purpose, things that are sometimes harder to find as we get older and no longer work.

Hobbies come in all shapes and sizes. They can be creative, academic, physical or just plain relaxing. Sometimes it might take you a while to find one that really suits you and one that you are able to stick with. Don’t be afraid to try until you discover the one that fits you.

And don’t just consider hobbies you do by yourself. Participating in a group activity is an incredible way to boost your mental well-being and provides a whole new host of social connections.

Here are seven engaging hobbies that are particularly good for you.

SPORT AND EXERCISE

Physical activity is a natural mood booster: it releases endorphins in the brain that bring about feelings of happiness and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Join a seniors’ class at your local gym or take advantage of Australia’s extraordinarily good climate and enjoy gentle outdoor exercise where you can soak up some sunshine – and get a dose of essential Vitamin D.

Gentle cardio exercises such as walking, swimming and bike riding are great for your physical health as well as your mental health. Consider activities that might be outside your comfort zone, such as tai chi or Whether it’s tai chi or the trumpet… pursuing a passion has so many benefits for your well-being. yoga, or join a local croquet or bowls club, so you get to meet others as well as work on upping your daily physical activity.

And don’t forget about good old dancing. There are so many benefits associated with this gentle form of exercise: including improving the condition of your heart and lungs; increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness; increased aerobic fitness; improved muscle tone and strength; better coordination, agility and flexibility; and improved balance and spatial awareness. Find old-time dance classes in your local area or a class specifically aimed at seniors.

MUSIC

Listening to music can ease anxiety and reduce stress. It can also bring forth happy memories and emotions. The benefits of music don’t have to be limited to just listening to it, though. You can achieve a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment from learning to play an instrument – and don’t let anyone tell you you’re too old to start. Find an instrument you enjoy (one that’s easy to manoeuvre and handle – maybe don’t start with the double bass) and find a good teacher: you’ll feel both fulfilled and mentally better. If listening to music is more your style, take advantage of senior discounts at recitals and concerts in your city or town.

READING

Reading can take your mind off of any stress in your life and transport you to another world. Your local library is a brilliant (free) asset – don’t be afraid to ask librarians for recommendations. If you’re mobile, consider joining (or starting) a book club. Browsing bookstores is no end of fun and might help you decide what to borrow from the library. Some of the many benefits of reading include strengthening your brain (that’s because it involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain), increasing your ability to empathise, building your vocabulary, and helping prevent age-related cognitive decline.

ART

An activity such as painting or pottery is not only relaxing but, like music, allows you to use your creativity and feel a sense of accomplishment. You don’t have to be a professional artist or a budding Picasso to enjoy the benefits. There are oodles of organisations and groups, including TAFE, that offer art classes for beginners: everything from stained-glass art to sculpting. Try a few to see which one you like, and ask a friend or family member to join – staying connected with others is also particularly good for your mental well-being.

FISHING

Angling is both relaxing and exciting at the same time. Being outdoors can help reduce stress and anxiety, and the anticipation of catching your next fish can be a thrilling experience. Fishing is also an activity that creates feelings of self-fulfilment and success. It requires skill and creates challenges to overcome: when you learn those skills and overcome those challenges, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s also an opportunity to bond with family and/or friends.  With one of the longest coastlines in the world, there are endless opportunities to cast a line just about anywhere. If mobility is an issue, consider a fishing charter that caters for those with mobility issues.

JOURNALLING AND WRITING

Journalling can help you identify and work through any situations in your life that are causing stress, depression or anxiety. This then allows you to create a plan for resolving any situations that may be impacting your mental health. Journalling also gives you the opportunity to practise positive self-talk and reflect on positive memories. 

Creative writing is another fabulous interest to consider challenging your passions into. According to research by Scientific American, writing can help you develop your organisational skills by crafting and sequencing your thoughts and ideas, boost your reasoning and problem-solving skills, and help you to integrate a wide range of words and grow your word bank.

As well, because so much of the brain is engaged, the more you write, the more neural connections are formed; and the more you use your brain, the more it will grow like a muscle. You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway or do it with a view to getting published: just write for your own pleasure.

GARDENING

Exposure to plants and the act of gardening can have a positive effect on mental health. And don’t forget how good it is for your physical health: researchers found that the one common factor shared by all of the world’s centenarians was that they gardened well into their old age.

An edible garden offers the best of every world – tending it will keep you physically strong, but you can also eat what you grow, saving you money and cutting back on ingesting chemicals used to grow food. Better Health Victoria has a great guide to creating your own edible garden here: betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/ gardening-for-health-starting-out.

Creating your own garden in your own backyard is optimal, but if that’s something you can’t manage, consider a house full of easy-care indoor plants, which have myriad benefits, including boosting mood, increasing creativity, reducing stress and eliminating air pollutants.

And make sure to take advantage of the country’s sublime botanical gardens: entry is free (or nominal), and you can wander for hours, finding inspiration for your own backyard or just enjoying the natural beauty and sunlight.

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