5 Hobbies That Reduce Stress

The phrase Doing what you love doesn't have to apply to your career. Whether or not you love your job, you have the freedom to choose how you spend your free time. Make it matter with an activity that you enjoy, and reap the health benefits of less stress—and a more relaxed mind and body.

How Hobbies Help Reduce Stress

"Hobbies help individuals become engaged in present-moment awareness," says Scott Bea, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. "Generally, any activity that pulls us outside of self-awareness can produce reductions in tension."

A hobby can definitely make you feel less stressed, agrees Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist Nora Baladerian, PhD. "Engaging in something that interests you stimulates your brain and helps you socially," she says.

What’s more, the physical signs of stress, like a racing heart and an increase in blood pressure, can improve if the hobby is a sport that keeps you active, says Simon Rego, PsyD, ABPP, ACT, and director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical School/Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York City. "And since most sports are team-based and have a social component, you will have the opportunity to bond with other people, which can also play an important role in stress reduction," he says.

Five Hobbies to Try

  1. Volunteering. Whether you work as a docent for your local museum, sign up to deliver meals to homebound elderly, or put in a few hours a week sorting donations to a homeless shelter, volunteering makes you feel good and gets you in touch with other people. Plus, you’re doing something great for someone in need. "It’s great for the social component of stress reduction," Rego says. "When you volunteer, you see life in a new way and you can learn to appreciate what you’ve got."
  2. Knitting. Actually, whether you knit, crochet, or embroider, you'll find yourself automatically relaxing when you pick up the needles, says Baladerian. "It's very helpful for getting rid of stress because it is so calming and repetitive," she explains. "You can do it practically anywhere—in the park, sitting at a lecture, even when out with friends." Bonus: knitting, crocheting, and embroidering are productive, so you’ll end up with lots of cool items to wear yourself or give as gifts!
  3. Yoga. Yoga not only reduces stress, but helps you stay in shape, lowers blood pressure, and quiets an overactive mind. You don’t have to be an expert at difficult poses to reap the benefits, since even simple yoga poses can induce feelings of calmness and tranquility. "Yoga teaches mindfulness, which is an essential part of the cognitive route to de-stressing," says Lisa Rene Reynolds, PhD, an adjunct instructor in psychology at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury and the author of Parenting through Divorce: Helping Your Kids Thrive During and After the Split. "Regimented, deep breathing is an important step in relaxing, and stretching the body can help relax tight muscles and clenched jaws."
  4. Playing a musical instrument. "Playing an instrument not only requires you to focus your attention and concentration, but it keeps you grounded in the moment, and the sound produced is often soothing," explains Rego.
  5. Exercising. An active hobby can be a fabulous stress antidote, Bea says. "When we move and exercise, good things happen in our brains and bodies," he explains. "Our brains begin to generate new neurons and our bodies produce chemicals that improve mood and reduce the circulation of stress hormones." If you don't want to join the company softball league, consider dancing, spinning, or water aerobics, Bea suggests.

Nora Baladerian, PhD, reviewed this article.


"Yoga: Fight Stress and Find Serenity." Mayo Clinic. Jan. 5, 2013.