5 Hobbies You Can Take Up To Benefit Your Mental Health

You might just think of a hobby as something you take up for fun in your spare time. However, there is legitimate science that suggests hobbies can help us maintain our mental health. More specifically, a hobby can help us reduce stress, which is responsible for everything from depression to muscle tension.

According to the Utah State University Mental Health Education Extension, engaging in a hobby in your spare time can reduce levels of cortisol — the stress hormone — in the body. If you want to reap the benefits of these types of activities, but don't have the time, think of where you have wiggle room in your schedule. Instead of watching television, for instance, think of how you could dedicate this time to a hobby instead.

Once you find the time for a hobby, you may want to consider taking up new ones — but how do you choose? Some factors to take into account include your daily schedule and level of interest in the hobby. Your schedule may only permit activities that can be completed in short bursts of time. In terms of your level of interest, assess how much you like the idea of a hobby versus actually participating in it. For example, it might not be worth buying yoga pants if you can't see yourself committing to a yoga routine.

Once you figure out the logistics, you can consider these five hobbies to boost your mental health.


Many people kept diaries as a child but grew out of them as they entered adulthood. However, journaling in a general sense is not just an activity for kids — keeping a log of your thoughts can help you with emotional control while improving your mental health, per the University of Rochester Medical Center. Additionally, this hobby allows you to express yourself in a healthy, safe way.

Over time, you may be able to look back on your journal and notice patterns in what you write. In turn, you can use this information to prioritize issues you want to resolve on a personal level. For instance, you might recognize a need for more positive self-talk if you see negative language in your journal. In turn, you can be proactive about staying positive on a daily basis.

Whether you've never had a diary or you want to get back into the habit of writing, one helpful tip for beginning this hobby is to set aside a few minutes for it each day. Even if you only have five minutes each night before bed, for example, you can journal as a hobby. Keep in mind that your journal can also be whatever you want it to be — you make your own rules. You can use it for drawing, poetry, or just compartmentalizing your current list of priorities. Remember, you don't have to share your journal, either (unless you want to, of course).


Even if you didn't enjoy reading books as a child, we've come a long way since the days when the only options were hardcover or paperback. Today, everything from e-readers to audiobooks has made books more accessible than ever before. If you're seeking a new hobby that also benefits your mental health, this just might be the one for you.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of College Teaching and Learning suggests that by fitting just 30 minutes of reading into your schedule, you can potentially reduce your blood pressure, heart rate, and psychological distress. Additional research has indicated that reading can also raise your ability to empathize with others and limit symptoms of depression, according to Healthline.

If you aren't sure where to begin with this hobby, think about what you want to get out of reading. For example, consider the genre of the book you want to start — historical fiction or fantasy might be ideal if you want to feel a bit of escapism. If your schedule doesn't allow for large chunks of reading time, subscribe to a newsletter that you can keep up with regularly to adopt your new hobby. Don't forget about audiobooks, too — they make it convenient to read on the go by listening to your favorite authors instead.

Art activities

Just because you didn't go to art school doesn't mean that you can't paint, draw, or engage in any sort of creative hobby. In fact, artistic hobbies can be some of the most beneficial in terms of improving and maintaining your mental health, according to the University of Washington. Studies have suggested that activities like drawing and doodling can reduce stress and cortisol levels in the body.

If you're the type of person who enjoys the feeling of completing a project, art as a hobby can work to your advantage. Finishing a painting or drawing, for example, can boost your self-esteem while validating your ideas and feelings. On the other hand, you might want to simply block out a segment of time in your schedule to engage in an artistic hobby. By doing so, you can mindfully create a work of art and enjoy it once it's complete.

Art can be difficult to adopt as a hobby if you've never felt like a creative type of person. If you're dedicated to doing so, you'll need to shed the stereotype that artistic endeavors are only meant for "artistically talented" people. Then, approach the hobby like anything else — if you want to draw regularly, use the set amount of time you have for your hobby to sketch in a notebook. If you're thinking of taking up painting, have your supplies readily available to engage in your hobby every day.


Many people already know that exercise is important for both your physical and mental health. However, some exercises can be so enjoyable that you may even want to dedicate your leisure time to them. Yoga is one of these activities, and because of its extensive benefits, it's not unusual to hear those who practice it refer to it as a hobby.

While yoga can indeed work out your muscles, it can also be an extremely relaxing activity — many routines incorporate meditation. As Harvard Medical School explains, meditation can reduce activity in the limbic system of the brain. This is where your emotional reactivity comes from, meaning that when it's tempered, you're in a better position to handle stress. Yoga is also thought to raise levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain as well, which can boost your mood and limit anxiety.

It's not uncommon for people to fall off the bandwagon when it comes to any exercise, but there are ways you can reduce the odds if you're serious about yoga. Simply reminding yourself that it'll take time for your practice to become habitual can help you stay patient. As it goes with other hobbies, don't forget to integrate it into your schedule as well. Doing so can make sure you don't miss out on leisure time.


You might run in fear if you hear the word "gardening" and already know you don't have a green thumb. However, this hobby is one that is easier than people assume, and it comes with several mental health benefits. As explained by researchers from Texas A&M, gardening and working with plants, in general, can decrease depression, boost self-esteem, and reduce stress. Additionally, it may be particularly helpful for those managing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or attention deficit disorder.

"Gardening is an excellent activity for practicing mindfulness, which is beneficial to overall well-being," said Miquela Smith, who works at Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension program. "The ability to use our hands, coupled with being outside, makes it less likely to be distracted by phones or other technology. This helps you focus and distract your mind from those things that would worry you."

If you're interested in gardening as a hobby, you can begin by thinking of what you want to grow — do you want to grow plants you can eat or just a variety of beautiful flowers? Then, you can start to look into factors that will impact the plants, such as your local climate and soil. Because gardening is an ongoing activity (plants need regular maintenance and care), it's one hobby you can benefit from over an extended period of time.