5 Hobbies With Big Health Benefits

Most hobbies—whether it's making your own soap, collecting antiques, traveling, knitting, or playing guitar—provide relaxation, instantly relieving stress and boosting your mental health.

That, in turn, can help boost your physical health. But some hobbies have a more direct effect on both your physical and psychological well-being. Here are five to try:

1. Kitchen Gardening

How it helps: Gardening is an activity you can share with your spouse or children, even as you focus individually on separate tasks. The rewards of working in a garden and harvesting some of your own food include relaxation, increased physical activity, and a backyard supply of nutritious fruits, berries, vegetables, and herbs to add to your family's meal.

2. Cooking

How it helps: Cooking shows on television and instructional videos on foodie websites make it easy to learn new ways to prepare fresh, healthy ingredients and add more variety to your diet. Prefer going out to going online? Cooking classes add a social dimension and can help you break out of your comfort zone as you discover new foods and new flavor combinations.

3. Aromatherapy

How it helps: Learning about the therapeutic benefits of fragrant essential oils such as lavender, tea tree, and bergamot can benefit both mental and physical ailments. According to the National Cancer Institute, aromatherapy may work by sending chemical messages to the area of the brain that regulates emotions and mood and may help patients cope with symptoms and with the side effects of some medical treatments. While most essential oils may not have a direct effect on physical disease, some do. For instance, lavender can relieve muscle soreness, as well as soothe insect bites. It's also the only essential oil that can be applied to skin undiluted.

4. Sports Activities

How it helps: Activities such as martial arts, golf, tennis, archery, sailing, hiking, and horseback riding will help to burn calories and keep you fit. But, goal-oriented exercise will help you sharpen your focus, improve your skills, and in some cases, help you get more fresh air.

5. Journaling

How it helps: Keeping a journal is one way to support both mind and body. For instance, you can use a journal to keep track of your eating habits and exercise goals, or to explore feelings and behavior that may be blocking your ability to be happy or successful. After a while, your journal will reflect how far you've come, what works and what doesn't, and what you still need to do to reach your goals and improve your health.

"Journaling is a wonderful way to stay cognizant, accountable, and grateful," says Beverly Hills psychotherapist Allison Cohen, MA, MFT. "It pulls you into a powerful awareness that allows for growth and change that ultimately benefit both your mind and your body." The same can be said for any hobby.

How to Choose a Hobby

If you don't enjoy an activity, it will only add to your stress levels. You also won't stick with it, which means you won't see any benefits or realize the satisfaction that comes with getting better at something or reaching concrete goals.

Allison Cohen, MA, MFT, reviewed this article.




Godman, Heidi. "Backyard Gardening: Grow Your Own Food, Improve Your Health." Harvard Health Letter 29 June 2012 Web 13 Feb 2013

University of Missouri & Lincoln University Outreach & Extension: Journaling for Health

National Cancer Institute: Questions and Answers About Aromatherapy