When you have anxiety, it can be difficult to find effective ways to calm down and relax. It is important to give it a try, however, and one way to do so is with a relaxing hobby. If you can make knitting, or exercising, or walking outside a part of your life, I promise your worried brain will thank you.
If you're wondering which options are the most effective, it really is an issue of personal taste. "An ideal hobby to ease anxiety is one that helps distract you from significant stressors and enables you to disengage," Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth, of NYC Surgical Associates, tells Bustle. "Hobbies are a very personal thing in this regard." That's why it's really up to you to sort through all the options, weed out the ones that sound stressful, and zero in on whatever sounds most calming and relaxing.
"An ideal hobby for someone with anxiety is something specific to their personality that they enjoy being completely immersed in," Hollingsworth says. With that in mind, here are some excellent options — as well as why they all work. Whether you want to get your endorphins flowing, or hang around some like-minded people, here are some hobbies you might want to try.
1. Any Type Of Exercise
Exercise has all sorts of anxiety-reducing benefits, so join a gym, take up jogging, or start riding your bike to work. "When you work out you release endorphins, which are literally chemicals that fight stress," Dr. Raghu Indupuganti, of NYC Surgical Associates, tells Bustle. "One of the other key substances released during exercise is dopamine, which is the 'feel good' hormone. Dopamine release definitely promotes a sense of well-being and hence less anxiety."
2. Yoga (Either At Home Or In A Class)
Yoga's great because you can do it at home. Or, if you're feeling up to it, you can attend a class with a bunch of like-minded people. As mindfulness expert Meghan Renzi, LCSW-C, RYT-200 says, "Yoga incorporates mindfulness and physical movement, [and] both have been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety symptoms in people of all ages." I promise you'll notice a difference pretty much immediately.
3. Writing Down Gratitude Lists
While writing gratitude lists may not sound like a hobby, it's totally a hobby. To really do it up, get a nice notebook, some fancy pens, and set a time each day to sit down. Then start by writing five things that you're grateful for. "These could be events, people, or qualities about yourself," Renzi says. "A daily gratitude practice can help reduce symptoms of anxiety."
4. Coloring And/Or Painting
If you've yet to give one of those adult coloring books a try, now may be the time. "The selection of colors, staying in the lines, and even thinking of color theme occupies the mind and shifts focus," says Marie Flounoy, founder of The You Blueprint. These are invaluable distractions when you're feeling anxious.
Dancing may sound like the last thing you'd want to do when you're anxious, but trust me — it has all sorts of anti-anxiety benefits. "Any kind of movement is great," says Flounoy. "However, dancing takes the mind off the intense feeling that anxiety may bring." And, if you're looking for a great way to overcome social anxiety, nothing does the trick quite like a dance class.
Depending on your type of anxiety, you might not see the appeal in people-watching. But if you can swing it, post up at your local coffee shop and take it all in. "The buzz of other people, [and] the smells of the brewing coffee are good for re-focusing and decreasing anxiety," says Allyson A. Bowen, LISW-CP. Going out and sitting quietly, without the pressure of talking to anyone, might even help ease social anxiety over time.
7. Reading Your Favorite Genre
I know it can be tough to sit down and truly become absorbed in a story when you're feeling anxious. But if you stick with your favorite genre, it might help make it easier. "Reading a book that caters to your topics of interest can provide you with a way to escape into another world, [and] away from what may be causing you anxiety," psychotherapist Christine M. Valentin, LCSW tells Bustle.
8. Hanging Out In Nature
Whatever kind of nature you can get yourself to, head there and enjoy it as often as possible. "Any activity in nature can also be great for someone suffering from anxiety," says Renzi. "Studies indicate that spending time in nature can combat rumination — repetitively or obsessively thinking about one’s negative feelings." It's also known as "forest bathing," and it really works.
Volunteering is a win-win for everyone, so I highly recommend you give it a try. "Whether it is helping serve the homeless, tutoring, or volunteering at an animal shelter, helping others can give you a purpose," Renzi says. "Volunteering can also be an exercise in gratitude." And, if you hate it or say something "embarrassing," you never have to see those people (or dogs) ever again.
10. Playing An Instrument
As Consumer Safety advocate Morgan Statt says, "Creating music helps to lower the cortisol levels in the brain associated with stress and the subsequent reaction of anxiety, because you're channeling your thoughts to successfully playing a composition." You don't have to be the best. But it's definitely beneficial to give it a try.
11. Knitting Or Crafting
Knitting is probably the best hobby for clearing your mind and calming your body down. "You are focusing on counting stitches or following a pattern, engaging your brain versus ruminating on unhelpful thoughts, and creating something," Valentin says. "Oftentimes there are local yarn shops offering knitting classes or knitting groups where you can socialize with others and continue to learn new skills and find support."
Because when it comes to looking for the perfect past-time to calm your anxiety, you want to look for two things: something relaxing and something supportive. If you can get both, then consider that your new hobby.
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