But There's so Much More
Not only do our hobbies improve cognitive functioning, they can help stave off depression as well. A Norwegian study of almost 50,000 participants found that participating in cultural and artistic activities reduced depression in men and increased the overall sense of wellbeing in men and women.
The simple act of doing something creative can also help us ward off an oncoming depressive episode by giving us a sense of purpose and accomplishment, which in turn leads to those elusive happy thoughts we can’t always seem to find.
So how can you cash in on this veritable gold mine of warm fuzzy feelings? Go to a concert. Make something. Paint. Listen to music. Knit. Fold origami. Scrapbook. Take photos. Doodle. Start a craft group at home, or join one in the area. Do something – anything – creative.
Try your hand at ceramics or basketweaving. Make a quilt. Sew a pillow or embroider a wall hanging. The possibilities are endless, and you don’t have to master something to enjoy and benefit from it. Try something, see how you like it, and above all, have fun.
The More, the Merrier
It’s great to have a few hobbies if you can – some fit better into different moods, seasons, or situations. I love to potter about in my garden, but there’s not much to do there in the winter and I can’t bring it along on vacation. Fishing, though, is a great portable hobby. It gets me outdoors (daylight is awesome), can be done any time of year, and makes me move my lazy butt. In the deepest part of winter, I pick up my knitting needles and make warm scarves, shawls, hats, and sweaters. Knitting is also really portable, and I often stuff a project in my bag when visiting friends.
When I’m really manic I can’t focus much and just spend a lot of time cleaning, but when a depressive episode has me in its grips, the one thing I can always manage to do is make something – anything, really. I can catch up on a season of a good TV show and curl up on the couch with some little project I’ve been wanting to try out or have been meaning to finish for ages. It gives me a sense of being productive even when I’m feeling really down, which can definitely help lift my mood.
When I was hospitalized a couple of years back, I spent a month folding origami cranes and stringing them all around my room; I also knit an entire sweater and made a few pieces of art. I couldn’t manage to go on the group walks or eat dinner with the patients or staff, but I could make stuff. Those paper cranes decorate the ground floor of my house now, and I still have that warm, cozy sweater.