How Having A Hobby Can Have Surprising Benefits For Your Health

In the hustle and bustle of the modern world, having a hobby may seem like a frivolous pursuit. After all, between work, social obligations, and household duties, carving out a few hours a week just to have fun is, sadly, not always a priority. In fact, many of us simply don't factor ourselves into the equation, even though we always make time for everyone else in our lives. 

Over time, this can create resentment and anger as our mounting daily tasks leave us feeling overwhelmed (via Psych Central). Add children into the mix and it gets considerably more difficult, as your to-do list grows infinitely. Of course, you'll also inevitably find yourself making your child's hobbies a priority, too. But hobbies aren't just for kids; they're actually a must for adults.

In fact, even the royal family is getting in on the action. Kate Middleton uses a surprising hobby when she feels stressed and if the Princess of Wales can fit it into her busy schedule, you definitely can. Moreover, having a hobby can also boost your physical and mental health. Simply put, it's a must, particularly if you're feeling the strain. 

Why you need hobbies for your physical health

When we enter adulthood, we tend to focus all our attention on reaching the next big milestone, whether it's a better job, car, relationship, or home. While those pursuits are obviously worthy, they can't be our only focus. Setting aside time on a regular basis to do things we enjoy is vital, and it actually makes us healthier in the long run. On a physical level, hobbies cause reactions in our bodies that result in better health overall.

Researchers found that subjects who devoted leisure time to hobbies had a lower amount of stress hormones coursing through their bodies (via The New York Times). This, in turn, causes fewer incidences of diseases developing. Hobbies, whether they're physical or mental pursuits, can also affect a person's fitness. People with hobbies were found to have a lower body mass index and smaller waists.

Leisure activities also help lower blood pressure and improve sleep. Those two factors alone help prevent people from developing more severe health problems in the long run. Lack of sleep in itself can cause heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke (via U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). High blood pressure, meanwhile, increases the risk of cardiovascular issues.

Leisure activities boost mental health too

Psychologist Dr. Sula Windgassen warned Women's Health that your brain can get stuck in "doing mode," which is what helps us tackle work, run errands, take care of our homes, and do everything else that needs to be done. "But there's another state of existence, 'being mode,' where you're absorbed in the experience rather than thinking about the experience," Windgassen explained. "Being engrossed in a hobby brings you into this state. And, ultimately, you need a balance of both."

Spending time in "being mode" helps us recharge and destress. In fact, one of the first signs of depression is losing interest in your regular activities, per The Conversation. However, starting a new hobby can help alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety. On a very basic level, when we do things that bring us joy, the neurotransmitters in our brains release dopamine, which is the chemical that makes us feel good and experience pleasure.

In other words, hobbies not only help prevent depression and anxiety but they can also help actively alleviate the symptoms of both. 

How to find the right hobby for you

If you're finding it tough to switch off, or feeling as though any time you're not working you should be getting other stuff done, you might not even know which new hobby you might like to pursue. In the beginning, you may even need to try a few different things out until you find something that lights you up.

"When you're engaging in hobbies for mental health purposes, you want to pick activities that are stimulating but not overly challenging," therapist Caroline Given, L.C.S.W., advised Bustle. "The brain loves novelty and engaging in true 'play,' so anything you're curious about or takes you away from daily life is a good place to put your energy."

According to The Muse, one way to identify something that might suit you is to try recalling what you enjoyed doing as a child. Perhaps you loved to dance, draw, paint, sing, or do puzzles. There's no reason you can't just pick up where you left off and see if those activities still make you happy. Of course, you can also try things you never dreamed of doing, like finally signing up for something you never had the guts to do before, like yoga or even skydiving. 

It doesn't matter which hobby you choose as long as it makes you happier. Hobbies are anything but a waste of time since every minute you spend recharging will result in you becoming a better employee, partner, friend, and parent.