Most of us are no strangers to stress. A study from the American Psychological Association found that average stress levels in the United States have risen since 2014, with 24 percent of people saying they experience extreme stress. Although we can’t control problems at work or make those bills disappear, we can take charge of our mental health by engaging in activities that can help alleviate our stress and help us manage our day-to-day life without so much anxiety.
We all have different interests and prefer to do different things in our free time, but there are a number of hobbies that have been scientifically proven to help reduce stress. Picking up on these hobbies, even if it’s just here and there, can help us relax and feel less bothered by external life factors we can’t control.
If you’re looking to unwind a bit, consider picking up one of these seven hobbies that can help reduce your stress levels.
Perhaps the most obvious option, yoga is the go-to choice when it comes to alleviating stress, and for good reason. Yoga is more than just increasing your flexibility and strength. It focuses on breathing as well as deepening the mind-body connection, and studies show that yoga can help reduce your body’s physiological stress response, and it can even help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Whether you prefer to break out into a freestyle dance while listening to your favorite album or you like to grab a partner and head to a tango class, dancing is a great way to release some tension and diminish stress. Because dancing is a cardiovascular activity, it naturally boosts endorphins, but dancing also helps you form bonds with others, express your emotions in a healthy way, and even help you feel more fulfilled and controlled.
Curl up with a good book and watch all your worries melt away. Even just six minutes of reading can help reduce stress by two-thirds, according to a study from the University of Sussex. Escaping your own reality for a bit can be beneficial, and reading also works physiologically to reduce muscle tension and slow your heart rate.
There’s a reason why so many women like to sit around all day and peacefully create scarves and blankets. The repetitive movement of knitting can be meditative, allowing you to focus on the present moment while also giving you the satisfaction of creating something. Studies show that knitting is effective at reducing both physical and mental symptoms of stress.
Diaries aren’t just for elementary school. Keeping a journal is an easy way to reduce stress and anxiety, as expressing yourself through writing can help you release negative emotions and even see your thoughts and feelings more clearly.
It’s time to plant those seeds. A study from the Journal of Health Psychology found that gardening can improve positive mood and even reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Gardening not only gets you outside into the fresh air – and includes physical activity — but it also helps you focus your attention on one activity, which can help distract you from your outside worries.
There’s nothing like enjoying the great outdoors to help you relieve some stress. Studies show that walking in nature can help reduce rumination, the pattern of obsessing over negative thoughts. Hiking is also a good form of aerobic exercise, which is beneficial for reducing overall stress.