This Surprising Hobby Could Make You Happier

It's a pretty well-known fact that one of the best things to do to either pull yourself out of a funk or to prevent depression and anxiety from taking hold in the first place, is to get involved in a hobby. In recent times, people under stress have turned to baking (which has the unfortunate downside of tying in all too well with stress eating and thus leading to weight gain), gardening (better, since the results take longer, and fruits and veggies aren't all that fattening anyway), jigsaw puzzles (not much of a calorie-burner, but a great workout for the brain), and even stamp collecting (has the potential to be pricey, though your stamps are far more likely to appreciate in value than are your surplus loaves of sourdough).

One hobby you may never have even considered, though, is the pastime known as cosplay. Cosplay, which is short for "costume play," is something that cosplay enthusiast Kim Henderson-McAndrew of the geek fashion blog In Plain Sight tell us revolves around "wearing any type of costume at any time." She says that this can range from "a screen-accurate costume of Captain America to a costume-in-a-bag from Spirit Halloween to an outfit inspired by Captain America," although, of course, you can dress up as any type of character you wish. Cosplay, she tells us, is an activity that "improves your mood and overall well-being."

How does cosplay make you feel better?

Henderson-McAndrew explains that cosplay makes you feel better because it allows you the freedom to play. She says "There is this idea that once we are grown, that everything we do has to be straight-laced and adult, but that isn't true!" and goes on to tell of "doctors and lawyers that cosplay, and they are great at their jobs," since cosplay is no indication of immaturity but rather that those who engage in it just know how to have a little fun on the side when not working.

Cosplay also offers the added benefit by allowing you to, as Henderson-McAndrew says, "'take on' the persona of [a] character" who inspires you, and this, again, is something that she finds "playful and fun" and can also, depending on who you choose, be very empowering. Perhaps you may feel like real-world you is kind of small, weak, powerless, and easily overwhelmed by events beyond your control, but slip into a costume and suddenly you are Xena: Warrior Princess, and you're not afraid of anything! As Henderson-McAndrew puts it, "any sort of activity like that will improve your mood, and it is as easy as putting on a dress, shirt or jacket" — or perhaps some leather armor.

Cosplay can even improve your mental health

Cosplay also allows you to exercise your creative side, something that Henderson-McAndrew says is bound to improve your mental health. Science agrees with her on this point, hence the existence of art and music therapy, as well as the findings of a 2016 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology (via Taylor & Francis), which says, "Spending time on creative goals during a day is associated with higher activated positive affect (PA) on that day."

Plus, getting involved in cosplay will allow you to make new friends. (Geeky friends, who everyone knows are the best kind!) As Henderson-McAndrew says, "Cosplayers have a great community, so once you become a part of that community, you feel a part of something bigger than yourself."

One more way in which cosplay can help boost your mood, Henderson-McAndrew tells us, is because it will allow you to feel good about your appearance, and that "wearing something super fun, like cosplay, will vastly improve your confidence." She feels that this "added body confidence and positivism will improve your overall health, not to mention your mental health!"

How do you get started as a cosplayer?

If there's one thing Henderson-McAndrew knows inside and out, that's how to help initiate newbies into the art of cosplay. She's even written a book on the subject called In Plain Sight. To start, Henderson-McAndrew says, you should first "pick a character that your absolutely love [who is] someone that makes you smile just thinking about." You'll then need to decide what types of clothing make you feel most comfortable, and how formal or informal you'd like to be: "Do you like a nice vintage-feel dress or are you more of a jeans/t-shirt combo type person?"

If you are copying a character's costume exactly, then what they wear dictates your outfit, but if you're just going for a costume inspired by them, you can wear anything that reflects that character's color scheme and motifs. Henderson-McAndrew gives as an example Captain America: choose an outfit in his signature red, white, and blue and maybe add a necklace or pin that resembles his shield. Such an outfit could be subtle enough that you could get away with wearing it to work, but it is something Henderson-McAndrew says is called a "bound", or a costume made from everyday clothing. She calls this "an excellent way to dip your toe in the water before jumping in the deep end of cosplay" — just in case you feel you're not quite ready for that spandex suit or chain mail bikini.