5 mindful hobbies for reducing stress and anxiety that actually work

One of the hardest things about anxiety is finding ways to control worried thoughts. Often it can feel like your mind is running at a million miles per hour, making it impossible to switch off – even when you’re spending a peaceful evening in solitude.

If you’re the type of person that struggles to reap the benefits from meditation and mindfulness, what you might need is a hobby.

Research has found that certain pursuits can be a brilliant distraction for overactive minds, thanks to their repetitive nature and sense of accomplishment. In fact, a new study from The University of East Anglia found that singing in a community choir can help people recover from mental illness, making them feel valued and increasing their confidence.

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But if you don’t fancy yourself as the next Adele, there are plenty of other anxiety-busting hobbies that you can take up this year.

Here are just a few you could try…

1. Painting

 

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When was the last time you rolled up your sleeves and threw some paint onto a canvas? Channelling your inner Hockney or Warhol fosters creativity and encourages your mind to focus on small details like tiny brush strokes or intricate line drawings. Even simple tasks like this require a great deal of concentration, providing a mental escape from life’s everyday problems.  In fact, a review in the American Journal of Public Health found that creating art, whether big or small, could fill occupational voids, decrease negative emotions and reduce stress and anxiety.

2. Journalling

 

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You might not have shared your innermost thoughts in a diary since you were a teenager, but studies have found that writing down your emotions in a stream of unconsciousness – known as ‘free writing’ – can have serious mental health benefits. Research published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment found that writing about emotional or traumatic events can help victims to recover psychologically.

3. Gardening

Planting, pruning and trimming is a rewarding hobby that will leave you with a great sense of achievement. Who doesn’t love opening their curtains in the morning and gazing on a beautiful garden of flowers? Getting into nature also has its own benefits; as well as upping your dosage of mood-boosting vitamin D from the sun, the sounds, smells and peacefulness of the great outdoors can be a calming antidote to busy and stressful working environments.

If you don’t have a green patch to call your own, you could always try flower arranging. There’s something intrinsically calming about placing each stem into position before tying your bouquet into place with some gardening twine. Look for a course in your local area or simply buy a few different types of flower and have a go at arranging at home – there are plenty of YouTube tutorials that can help.

4. Pottery

 

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Mastering a new skill like pottery can give you a deep sense of accomplishment, as well as something unique to show off on your mantelpiece. Getting on a potter’s wheel has a great calming effect thanks to the deftness of fingers required to mold and shape your clay into a desired shape. As well as being super relaxing, creating your own ceramic pieces also make for simple, cheap and thoughtful gifts for friends and family.

5. Reading

Getting stuck into a good page-turner will make you feel a world away from stressful or anxious thoughts. Scientists have found that having a regular reading routine, such as bedtime reading, can lower stress levels, stabilise your heart rate and help you to relax. If you fancy upping the ante, why not join a book club? Meeting fellow readers can add an extra sense of community to what is a pretty solitary hobby, while speaking in front of people can be a huge confidence boost for socially anxious people.

6. Dancing

If you’re the type of person the usually shies away from the dance floor, you’ve been missing out on a some major mental benefits. Like all forms of art, dance allows you to creatively express feelings that might otherwise be overwhelming, bringing a sense of catharsis during stressful periods. It’s also great for relieving depression too. According to research from The Arts in Psychotherapy, lively dancing is a great cardiovascular workout that triggers mood-boosting endorphins, which can help to reduce negative thoughts.

Best of all, it’s a great option for anyone who’s short of disposable cash to invest in a new hobby, as you really don’t need to bother with signing up to an expensive gym or investing in expensive equipment to do it. All you need is an open space, some music and the confidence to just relax and let go.

 

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