If you’re an individual who deals with anxiety – either due to this chaotic last year or as a clinical disorder – knowing how to destress is crucial. Whether you like to exercise, cook, or garden, having a few hobbies for anxiety and stress management can help make the world feel a little less…well, stressful. That’s why we’ve put together a list of hobbies for anxiety to help you start the New Year off right.
Exercising is one of the best hobbies for anxiety, hands-down. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), exercise can help your stress levels by:
And the best part is, it doesn’t take much – a mere five minutes of aerobic exercise per day is all it takes to start feeling less stressed.
There’s no one exercise that’s good for anxiety. As a general rule, you should do what feels good for
you. What’s most important is consistency and frequency – most studies suggest that you should exercise a minimum of 30 minutes, three to five days per week.
But, if you don’t know where to start, don’t despair! The ADAA also recommends a few tips to help get you get moving:
Aim for 15-20 minutes every day
Start with fun exercises, such as biking, walking, swimming, or dancing
Use music, podcasts, or audiobooks to brighten up your workouts
Find an “exercise buddy” to make working out more fun – and to hold you accountable
Be patient – it may take up to two months to get used to your new regimen
Yoga is an excellent form of body-based exercise that you can practice almost anywhere. If you live near a local park, on the beach, or even just have a few square feet of space in your living room, then you have the space to practice this ancient form of meditation. It has a ton of health benefits, too, such as:
Relieving back and joint pain
But that’s not all. It’s also a great hobby for anxiety, as it calms the mind in a peaceful environment. However, it’s important to note that yoga is not proven to treat anxiety disorders; rather, it reduces stress overall. Thus, incorporating yoga into your weekly routine can improve your quality of line – and thereby decrease your anxiety – over time.
Gardening and Horticulture
Exercise doesn’t have to be high impact to be good for you. In fact, gardening may be one of the easiest forms of exercise – and one of the best for your joint health. Even if you don’t have the outdoor space for a big garden, you can fill your windows, bathroom, and bedroom with plants galore. Plus, gardening and horticulture been shown by many studies to help your mental health by:
Reducing stress, anxiety, and fatigue
Decreasing the severity of depressive episodes
Boosting mood, concentration, and even creativity
And even improving the quality of your indoor air
Hobbies for Anxiety: Creative Pursuits
Research shows that creative pursuits can make great hobbies for anxiety management. One 2016 study coordinated between the University of Otago in New Zealand, the University of Minnesota, and the University of North Carolina found that, among a pool of 658 subjects, those who enjoyed a creative activity every day:
Benefited from “higher activated positive affects” than those who didn’t
Cultivated positive psychological functioning
Flourished more than those who didn’t
Fortunately for those of us who couldn’t draw a perfect circle if our lives depended on it, many activities that fall under the umbrella of “creative pursuits” don’t require artistic ability. Whether you’re painting, building a sculpture, or even cooking without a recipe, each of these can provide their own unique forms of stress relief.
Journal Your Cares Away
Journaling is a great hobby if you have anxiety – and even if you don’t. While more research is necessary, preliminary scientific evidence suggests that keeping a journal or diary can help reduce stress overall. For instance, one study found that medical students who wrote a journal entry every day were less stressed during their exams than their peers who didn’t.
Journaling comes with plenty of other benefits, too. One of the main perks is that it gives you a chance to write down and examine your feelings as they happen. Furthermore, you can use journaling time as an opportunity to:
Identify problems and potential solutions
Write down daily, weekly, and monthly anxiety triggers and symptoms
Identify negative or problematic behaviors or thought patterns
Learn more about yourself in a controlled setting
Believe it or not, picking up a coloring book and some crayons is a great hobby to help manage your anxiety. Whether you prefer an adult coloring book with lots of tiny details or a children’s coloring book to scribble in like mad, it’s a perfect way to shut down your busy mind and focus on creating something beautiful. Plus, studies show that coloring daily can:
Improve negative psychological outcomes
Decrease depressive symptoms
Reduce feelings and symptoms of anxiety and stress
If you’re looking for creative hobbies for anxiety that don’t involve a pencil and paper, cooking may be the way to go. Anyone who’s whipped up a meal with no recipe can tell you that cooking can be a very creative venture. One moment, you’re staring down a fridge full of random ingredients, and the next you’re ladling bean-free chili into a bowl of cottage cheese and tater tots.
While existing science on the matter calls for more research, the preliminary data is promising. One systematic review of four peer-reviewed research databases examined 377 studies for the effects of cooking on psychosocial outcomes and found that cooking can:
Decrease anxiety and increase quality of life
Help individuals lose or gain weight in a healthy manner
Reduce instances of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer
Reduce social isolation and increase socialization