Exercise Isn’t the Only Pastime That Can Improve Your Mental Health

Entertainment is important. They allow us to take back ownership of our time. It’s not something you have to do; it should be something you enjoy doing that will improve your day. Not to mention, hobbies have a variety of mental health benefits — from a sense of accomplishment to improving mood to redirecting negative thoughts.

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Entertainment is no substitute for getting help when you need it. They do not cure mental health disorders. However, it’s another tool in your belt that can help you manage your mental health and live the life you want. Let’s talk about why hobbies are useful and which ones you should try.

Why are hobbies good for mental health?

Recreations make you feel good. They help you relax and unwind from your day, with the added benefit of lowering your stress levels and blood pressure. Recreation can help ease existing depression symptoms and reduce your risk of developing depression by up to 30%.

Ways hobbies can improve your mental health:

  • Improving neuroplasticity: According to StatPearls, neuroplasticity describes the ability of our brain to adapt its activity and structure by forming and using new synaptic connections. You can think of your brain as a big map — there are many ways to get to your destination, and sometimes you have to change where you’re going. Hobbies and habits require you to create new neural pathways, which provide new reference points for the brain to recognize.
  • Reduce stress: Many people use hobbies to decompress from stressful days. When you do something you enjoy, you allow your body to relax and cortisol levels drop, which lowers your heart rate and blood pressure while raising your mood.
  • Help self-confidence: Everyone likes to get things done. It brings itself to success which feels good. As you master your hobby more and more, your confidence and self-esteem will improve.

Everyone is busy. It’s almost impossible not to feel like you’re bouncing from one thing to the next. But if you feel like you don’t have time to dedicate to your hobbies, remember, it’s good for you.

What hobbies are best for improving mental health?

There is no reigning champion of recreation for mental health. We are all different, so we choose different things that help us relax. What works for you may not produce the same results for others. It’s about finding the right hobby that you find value in.

Here are some common options people use to boost their mental health and why they work.


Regular journaling is a powerful tool that allows you to work through feelings and reflect on the events you experience. It is often recommended for those with anxiety, depression and PTSD. You don’t have to write a novel; Research shows that journaling for as little as fifteen minutes a day can help reduce anxiety.

You don’t have to search to solve a problem while journaling. This is also something you can do for fun. The benefits come either way. Common types of journaling include reflective journaling — which involves writing about your day and what you think about it — and gratitude journaling.

Whatever type of journaling you choose, it’s a great pastime that allows you to highlight your victories and challenge negative thoughts and feelings.

Person sitting on their couch writing in a journal.

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Everyone knows that food can be therapeutic. But can also cook. Besides the benefits that affect your physical health, such as controlling substances, there are many reasons why cooking is one of the best hobbies for mental health. It offers a level of emotional comfort that other hobbies cannot.

According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, cooking can help you relax and improve your happiness. It’s not hard to see why. With each dish, you feel more confident and confident, not to mention the social connections you can make serving it to others. And for the record, yes, cooking is important too.

Spend time in nature

Hobbies that involve being outside — such as hiking or gardening — can be good for mental health. Studies have shown that exposure to sunlight helps improve serotonin production in the body. Serotonin is a natural neurotransmitter that plays a role in regulating our moods, according to Harvard Health Publishing. It’s called the “feel-good” chemical for a reason. When our body produces the right amount of serotonin, we feel happy and calm. Low levels of serotonin are associated with mood disorders such as depression.

So if you’re someone who goes outside, you’re helping your body fight depression without even realizing it. Being outside in nature can also reduce stress and lower your heart rate.


When I say art, I’m talking about everything creative you can think of – painting, drawing, sculpting, embroidery and woodworking. The list goes on. Regardless of where your hobbies fall on the line, you get tangible mental health benefits from them.

Art allows you to express your feelings and channel your creativity. You can also use it as a way to work through things that are difficult to talk about. This is a tactic often used in art therapy sessions.

Art can also relieve stress and improve self-esteem. You don’t have to be “good” at painting to do this. There is no bar to meet for quality. The only important thing is that you enjoy what you do.


You get a sense of accomplishment and happiness from playing an instrument. Doing something feels good, and your body will respond to those positive feelings. But if you’re not into music, don’t worry; Listening to music can also have similar benefits by lowering stress and anxiety levels. It also boosts your mood.

Woman dancing in her kitchen while listening to music.

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Reading is the ultimate form of escapism. You can jump into a new world and live a thousand different lives — or as many books as you can read. It also happens to be a great hobby if you have anxiety. Reading can help distract you from any negative or troubling thoughts you may be experiencing. It also helps lower your heart rate and helps you relax.

You can get the same benefits from listening to books as well. So if you can’t find time to read, try listening while walking your dog or cleaning your house.

Strategy games

Strategy games and puzzles — such as chess, crosswords and sudoku — are other hobbies that are good for your mind. Studies have found that strategy games improve brain function, problem-solving skills and memory. Puzzle games can also help those with ADHD improve their concentration.

Due to their ability to strengthen knowledge, strategy games and puzzles can also reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s in the elderly. However, experts are divided on whether it is a real prevention or whether it helps to cope with the disease. More research is needed to determine the role of strategy games in age-related cognitive decline.


Whether you’re working out alone or participating in team sports, exercise is one of the best pastimes — both physically and mentally. When we exercise, our brain floods with mood-boosting endorphins, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Exercise is an outlet to release frustrations and navigate emotions. By exercising, you lower your risk of anxiety and depression. Team sports give you extra edge by filling up your social meter while moving your body.

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