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Unsurprisingly, anxiety is on the rise.
In fact, a recent poll showed that nearly 40% of adults are more anxious today than they were this time last year when it comes to life domains such as personal safety, physical and mental health, money, relationships, and politics. As people have a greater perception of possible danger in their lives, it’s important to mitigate those feelings however possible.
People often resort to sitting in front of the television, especially during these times of social distancing and being quarantined from the rest of society. However, watching television can increase anxiety, especially if you’re watching the news.
One of the great benefits of having a hobby is that it can redirect your focus from potential impending doom to something that you enjoy doing and give you a sense of purpose. So in this article, we are going to look at 11 hobbies that are great for people who want to calm their overactive mind. These activities can help reduce anxious feelings in the moment and, if done enough, can reduce your overall sense of discomfort.
Let’s look at a few quick tips on how to choose a hobby that’s right for you if you have anxiety before looking at some examples.
How to Find a Hobby That’s Right for You
When you’re trying to ease your anxiety, the process of finding what works best for you can be very intimate and specific to your needs. So, while knowing some common hobbies for people with anxiety is a great first step to generating some ideas for yourself, you’ll need to consider how each could fit into your life.
First, it’s important to remember to pick a hobby that won’t increase your anxiety. For example, if you're nervous about your financial situation, you will probably want to steer clear of activities that necessitate a large investment to get started.
Or, if you’re like me and the idea of adding more scheduled activities to your plate right now makes you break out in a light sweat, signing up for some type of class or something that will take up a significant amount of time might not be your best bet right now.
Essentially, think about the root cause of your anxiety and don’t pick a hobby that’s going to add to that.
And one quick note before we get started: experiencing feelings of anxiety on occasion doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a clinical anxiety disorder. That said, engaging in hobbies that could help reduce occasional feelings of anxiety aren’t considered to be medical recommendations for dealing with anxiety disorders– so make sure to talk to a doctor if you feel like you need additional help handling your feelings.
Now let’s look at some examples.
11 Fun Hobbies and Activities for People Who Have Anxiety
Writing in a journal allows you to record your thoughts and feelings in an effort to better understand them. And if you’re struggling with anxiety, maintaining a journal can be a great hobby that will help you gain control of your feelings and improve your mental wellbeing.
Journaling is a great outlet to help you face your overwhelming emotions and express yourself. Journaling can help you:
Make it easy for yourself to get started with your journaling practice by keeping a pen and paper with you all the time, so when a thought or idea hits you, you can record it. And your journal certainly doesn’t need to follow any type of set structure. You should consider your journal to be your personal space to write about whatever feels right to you.
Try to write in your journal regularly by setting aside some time each day to sit with your thoughts and get them down on paper. Look at this time as being a time for you to wind down from the day and relax a bit. Find a soothing and comfortable place to write, which will help reduce feelings of stress, make you feel less overwhelmed with your everyday life, and definitely reduce feelings of anxiety.
2. Practice Yoga
Yoga is a great hobby for those who are looking for a free activity that can be done at home at your convenience. All you need is a yoga mat and some comfortable, loose clothing that you probably already have on hand in order to get started.
This ancient exercise has a wide range of mental and physical health benefits, among which include increasing your ability to cope with anxiety. Practicing yoga can also help you handle the negative symptoms that often come along with anxiety such as an inability to sleep, depression, chronic pain, and digestive issues.
Yoga practices have been shown to reduce the impact that exaggerated stress responses can have on your body such as increased heart rate and respiration. This means that practicing yoga can have similar benefits to other self-soothing practices such as deep breathing, exercising, and spending time with loved ones.
If you’re a beginner, there are a lot of different types of yoga that you can try to find what works best for you. Youtube offers plenty of guided videos that can help you with your yoga practice–with some as short as ten minutes and others lasting over an hour.
3. Do Puzzles
If you really want to get your mind off of something, do a puzzle. You’ll quickly become laser-focused and forget about whatever may be ailing you at the time. Looking for the matching pieces of a jigsaw puzzle helps take your mind off anxious thoughts, which makes it a great distraction.
This is a great activity to do alone, or you can do it with company if you want to have people around without doing an activity that requires a lot of talking or interaction.
And, one of the great things about puzzles is that you can walk away from them at any time and pick up wherever you left off when it works best for you. So, if you’re feeling particularly anxious at one point, you can just go back to the puzzle you’re working on and spend some time on it.
Doing a puzzle requires you to put everything else aside while you search for (and find) the satisfaction of locating two pieces that fit perfectly together, making it a great hobby for people with anxiety.
This form of exercise is a great anxiety-reducer that can also lower your risk of depression (swimming releases endorphins, which naturally make you feel good) and improve your sleep. Many swimmers refer to this sport as being healing because it’s an invigorating, yet relaxing type of exercise that’s meditative due to its repetitive nature.
In one worldwide study of 4,000 people, 75% of swimmers reported that this hobby helps reduce their feelings of anxiety and aids in the release of tension.
Being in water is relaxing, and studies have shown that swimming for just half an hour three times per week can reduce stress levels, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. And while any exercise can help manage stress, swimming in particular has been found to be an especially helpful activity for improving mental health.
To me, this is where the tip of considering the root causes of your anxiety before choosing a hobby comes in handy. I know my cooking evokes anxiety–not just in myself, but in those who may be subjected to consume it. However, I also know so many people who swear by cooking if they need to get a relaxing break from life because they find it to be soothing.
And studies have shown the soothing effects of cooking, with experts claiming that cooking can provide people with an immersive activity that involves all five senses, offering respite from feelings of perceived dangers in one’s life (i.e. feelings of anxiety). When you’re preparing a meal, it’s easy to get caught up in that moment of creativity, which can be both calming and a mood booster.
Many people find joy in creating a unique meal, especially when it can be shared with loved ones. Plus, making and eating healthy food is a great way to make sure you’re feeding your body and mind with the necessary nutrition to maintain cognitive health. So, in addition to being meditative and reducing anxiety, cooking can help you keep your body healthy as well.
Coloring isn’t just for kids. There are a ton of budget-friendly coloring books on the market geared toward adults to help relieve stress and anxiety.
The act of coloring can be relaxing and the finished product offers a sense of reward. Studies have found that there are a few reasons why coloring is an effective way to stave off anxiety and improve emotional outcomes. First, it may arouse a nostalgic feeling of creating art as a child, which can make you feel good.
Coloring is also a creative outlet that can help break up your everyday routine. Finally, you can practice mindfulness as you disconnect from the chaos of life and reconnect to the present moment as you fill the pages with various designs.
Having anxiety can be limiting, but practicing photography certainly is not. One of the best things about picking up photography as a hobby is that there are limitless things you can choose to photograph.
You certainly don’t have to be social if that’s not your thing, but if you do want to photograph people, you’ll probably end up with a sense of confidence when you’re behind the camera. If you choose to photograph landscapes or nature instead, that means you’ll be getting out in nature, taking some long walks in natural light and fresh air, which is great for your mental health.
And, no matter what, you can definitely use your creativity skills when taking pictures. According to a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, those who spend time daily engaging in a creative activity have an improved sense of psychological well-being than those who don’t incorporate creative rituals into their routine.
This hobby has almost no barriers to get started, as all you need is some walking shoes and a safe place to walk.
When you couple walking with meditation, you can do even more to combat your anxiety. Walking meditation is an effective method for reducing stress, as it helps you focus and center your mind, especially if you’re going through a tough time. This meditation in action is easy because the walking part of it comes automatically, so your mind is free to wander.
And if you choose to walk without the meditative portion, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that walking for just ten minutes at a time can boost your mood and ease symptoms of anxiety. In fact, a 10-minute walk may be equally as beneficial as a 45-minute vigorous workout when it comes to reducing anxiety. Although the effects of walking or other forms of exercise may be temporary, research shows that a brisk walk can offer several hours of relief from anxiety, which is comparable to taking ibuprofen to treat a headache.
There are so many benefits you can get from reading, and reducing anxiety is one of them. Reading informs, teaches, entertains, and brings you to faraway places you’ve never experienced.
Studies have shown that reading can decrease stress and anxiety by 60-70%. Reading helps you relax by reducing your heart rate and relaxing muscle tension. As you give your mind a break from anxious thoughts by getting caught up in a book, you’ll often find yourself wrapped up in another world through the story that you’re picturing in your head.
Reading allows you to go to other places where you can “meet” people and learn about different problems that others are facing that will help take your mind off of your own anxiety.
If you’re looking for something to distract you from your anxiety, try your hand at gardening. Not only can gardening help put a stop to your ruminating thoughts, it can also reduce the severity of other symptoms of anxiety.
Gardening helps people connect with nature, which has positive psychological benefits, and if you choose to grow your own fruits and vegetables, you can provide yourself with healthy foods that can further nurture your psychological well being.
If you don’t have a yard, you can grow indoor plants or volunteer at a community garden to reap the benefits of this hobby. You’ll find it extremely satisfying to watch your plants grow after nurturing, feeding, and watering them.
11. Go Hiking
If ruminating thoughts are the basis of your anxiety, hiking can be an especially helpful hobby to adopt. Some doctors have turned to writing “nature prescriptions” that urge patients to put their smartphones aside and benefit from the mental and physical rewards of connecting with nature.
Studies show that spending time in nature while you’re hiking can reduce feelings of anxiety. Our modern lifestyles have changed radically from those of our ancestors, but our cognitive function has pretty much stayed the same. We maintain a deep connection with nature, and research shows that if we neglect our bond with the great outdoors in favor of technological advancements, our mental health can be negatively impacted.
The physical benefits coupled with the chance to get out in nature makes hiking a great hobby to take up for people who want to reduce their anxiety.
Final Thoughts on Fun Hobbies for People Who Have Anxiety
Anxiety can be debilitating, so having something to help you clear your mind, focus on, and enjoy is great for those who tend to be anxious. Keep in mind that figuring out which hobby works best for you may require some trial and error, as a hobby that is perfect for a friend might not really be up your alley. Be patient and try out a few of the hobbies listed in this article to see what helps you the most. Stay open-minded during this process and try as many new things as you can.
This list offers some great basic options for you to try if you feel like your anxiety is getting in the way of your normal, everyday functioning. So try something on here that you’ve never done before and see what types of benefits you can gain.
Finally, check out these SMART goals examples for anxiety and depression to help you on your path to better mental health.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.