We live in an over-stimulated environment; it is rare to find ourselves just focusing intently on one activity. We tend to be multi-tasking all the time: looking at the phone while we are eating watching TV is one of my favorites. But how great would it be to find some hobbies that can absorb all our attention and allows our mind to relax and almost engage in auto-pilot?
Stress not only causes mental anxiety but if left unchecked, it can take a toll on our bodies as it starts suppressing the immune functions leading to a possible increase of infections and issues such as digestive ailments, hypertension and heart disorders among other things.
Taking up a hobby will not only help you with bringing a sense of calm and relaxation but also can give you something to look forward to and maybe even to get passionate about. And this is without mentioning the sense of accomplishment at creating or improving at something.
A hobby is more than just a way to pass the time, a hobby can give pleasure and can soothe both mind and body but still keep in mind It should be done simply for the purpose of self-enjoyment. No need to be perfect or the best at it, once it crosses into a competitive or profitable endeavor it stops being a hobby and it is time to find a new one.
The hobbies we find interesting or enjoyable are a matter of personality but there are a few activities that seem to require a measure of calm and deep concentration that allow our brains to slow down and rediscover the joy of being focused.
Not only the remit of our grandmothers anymore, knitting as many other crafting outlets can help people with depression, anxiety or chronic conditions. Interestingly enough, therapists say crafting can have similar effects to meditation.
The repetitive motions of knitting help calm the nervous system making easier to control the constant worry about situations in our daily life, these motions can create a mindful almost trance-like state comparable with what more flexible people can experience practicing yoga.
And bonus points if your efforts translate into gifts to put a smile on other people.
Gardening is one of those hobbies with lots of hidden benefits. The obvious benefits of growing your own vegetables or flowers are just the start, gardening also reduces your stress hormones according to many studies and if done outside can be a good source of exercise.
The repetitive nature of gardening tasks help soothe your mind and the surrounding smells, sounds and sunlight can calm your mind and improve your mood. There are even studies outlining the benefits of contact with the bacteria in the soil and how it can help release increased levels of serotonin, which works to reduce depression.
Besides the calming effects, being able to nurture a plant from seed to fruit or flower is an empowering feeling that can trickle down to confidence in other areas.
Painting or, even better, Coloring
Painting helps improve concentration as the focus required to start from a blank piece of paper and produce an image that represents ideas is no small accomplishment. However, not all of us are gifted with artistic skills but there is no need to despair. Take advantage of the recent trend of Coloring books for adults.
These coloring books with complex silhouettes and patterns allow you to let your imagination fly and create bright, beautiful drawings unique to you. And by allowing you to concentrate on coloring a pattern, negative thoughts start getting replaced with beautiful images and colors.
Many people using coloring books to relieve stress use them before bed as a way of help your mind clear and relax. Although not accepted by doctors as a form of art therapy, the label is not as important as the fact it helps you reach a calm and mindful state.
Hitting the ball
Playing an intense sport is a good way to train your focus and concentration, however for the less athletically inclined it can be a source of stress not to be able to perform at the same level of the team. One sport that brings intensity, concentration and focus without having a high requirement of fitness to start playing is ping pong.
Ping pong is very fast paced, you need to keep your eyes on the ball at all times and you would be surprised to see how much your brain clears up while and after you play. Just be careful to not cross into the competition drive, if it does then it will be time to find another hobby.
Learn a new language, or two
Many studies have shown that people who speak more than one language are better at solving puzzles, analyzing problems and making decisions. The brain skills required for learning a new language are the same needed to make rational decisions.
You don’t have to be proficient in 3 languages in a couple of months but if you can learn a language that interests you for enjoyment reasons it will be fun and useful, for example, you may want to watch your favorite foreign movies without subtitles or understand what your favorite song is actually saying.
Bonus hobby: Play games
Puzzles, riddles, Sudoku and, yes, video games, can help increase the neuroplasticity of your brain, allowing your brain to be more flexible to reorganize itself faster. And the challenges of more difficult levels also help drive the sense of accomplishment. Just don’t play the games watching TV.