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What are the Best Hobbies for People with Anxiety?
In theory, the best hobbies for relieving anxiety would be something that you love doing and feel passionate about.
But since you’ve landed on this page, I am guessing you need a bit if inspiration and guidance to help you discover your hobby, and maybe even your passion.
If that’s the case, don’t worry as I was in the exact same situation.
At the peak of my anxiety, I was working long hours in investment banking in London, which left me hardly any time to think on most days, let alone to come up with a hobby. Also, I was extremely down and depressed and didn’t feel good or passionate about anything.
So, when I first started searching for helpful tips and ideas to help me with my anxiety, I was looking for readymade lists that worked for others, which I hoped would work for me too. I didn’t think too much about what I liked, but only what I could realistically fit into my busy and stressful lifestyle.
After some trial and error, I realized that certain activities brought me a lot of joy and pleasure, and these are the ten hobbies discussed in this article.
As it happens, these hobbies have also proved popular among many anxiety sufferers in my community.
So, in my experience as both a chronic anxiety sufferer and anxiety blogger, the best hobbies for people with anxiety include listening to calming music, writing expressively, walking, connecting with animals, reading or listening to empowering books, dancing in your bedroom, watching inspiring movies, putting together puzzles, coloring, getting into yoga, and cooking enjoyable meals.
Finding pleasure in one of these activities and making it a hobby can help you become more present and positive, and also less anxious.
According to one study published in Journal of Positive Psychology in 2016, people who spent time each day on a creative activity experienced an overall increase in positive psychological well-being, compared with those who didn't partake in such activities.
Furthermore, I believe that by adopting hobbies, and other techniques aimed at reducing and managing your anxiety, you’re more likely to move closer toward the mindset necessary for finding your true passion or calling in life.
Well at least that’s how things worked out for me.
So, if you’re ready for me to show you how to adopt these 10 hobbies for the benefit of your mental health, then let’s get started.
At the end of the article, I also include a number of other hobbies that have also proved effective for people with anxiety so you have quite a few to choose from.
The following 10 hobbies are fun activities that I adopted to manage my anxiety.
You don’t need to introduce all of these 10 activities, to relieve your anxiety.
One hobby is perfect enough.
If then later you decide to add another one that’s a bonus.
I recommend the following step-by step process:
- Step 1: Go through the list below, pick one activity and try it for a month.
- Step 2: Ideally practice for 30 minutes every day or at least for 30 minutes every other day
- Step 3: Record the level of your anxiety on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the worst, both before you start and after you finish. This will help you track the effectiveness of this activity on your anxiety. (You can download your “hobbies for anxiety tracker” below)
- Step 4: After the 30 days are up, review your anxiety levels and decide whether you will continue with this activity or choose another one and repeat the same process.
1. Writing Expressively
I have intentionally listed writing at the top because I highly recommend to every person with anxiety to try expressive writing as a way of releasing their thoughts and emotions.
Expressive writing is a highly effective anxiety management technique, and in my experience once you start to notice the benefits you are likely to get pleasure from engaging in this activity.
I found that regularly writing about what happened in my childhood and how that made me feel was incredibly healing.
According to Harvard Health
Writing about thoughts and feelings that arise from a traumatic or stressful life experience — called expressive writing — may help some people cope with the emotional fallout of such events.
But I also realized that writing about my thoughts, emotions, activities and anxiety levels each day helped me to identify what were my negative repetitive thought patterns and behaviors and thus what I needed to change to overcome my chronic anxiety.
One study in 2016 showed that,
Positive affect journaling (PAJ) was associated with decreased mental distress and increased well-being…less depressive symptoms and anxiety after 1 month and greater resilience after the first and second month.
If you don’t see yourself as much of a writer, don’t worry I didn’t either.
It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Simply, take a pen and a notepad or a piece of paper and begin writing freely about your worries, fears, pain or traumas.
Write from your heart and soul and express your deepest pain. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, paragraphs, writing style, or whether it makes sense. Just write for you.
If you later realize that writing is definitely not for you, that’s ok. You will have still benefited a lot from this process.
But you might actually discover a talent that you didn’t even know existed.
This is what happened to me:
- My writing journey began with journaling about my childhood trauma and keeping a daily log of my thoughts, emotions and anxiety levels.
- Later, I felt inspired to write short stories about my life, which was a powerful experience because it helped me to realize just how much I had gone through in my life.
- Then, I started writing poetry which is where I actually found my writing talent.
- But the most surprising thing on this writing journey was that I left investment banking to create amosuir.com, a website for helping people with anxiety, and now I write content every single day.
In short, if you asked me at the start of this writing journey, “do you like writing?”, I would have answered “I don’t enjoy writing and I can’t really write all that well.”
Now I can tell you with utmost confidence and clarity that writing is my passion.
If you don’t know where to begin with your writing journey, you can start by answering journal prompts for anxiety.
2. Listening to Calming Music
Regularly listening to calming music can be a highly effective way to calm down quickly and ease your anxiety symptoms.
One study in 2017 concluded that
Music listening is associated with a decreased level of anxiety and distress.
This is one of my favorite hobbies for relieving anxiety, because I realized very early on that each time I would put on my headphones and listen to relaxing sounds on YouTube my anxiety would start to ease instantly.
I found this to be incredible, and putting on calming music became one of my my emergency anti-anxiety measures.
I have a few calming videos that I listen to over and over again. You might like to change things up a bit, but I listen to the same ones because I know they work immediately to calm me down.
I listen to the following videos on most days, usually while walking, when writing blog posts and before sleep.
You can start by listening to the above, and also search on YouTube for others that you might prefer more. Then put on your headphones to block out all other sounds, sit back and feel your anxiety symptoms relieve.
3. Reading Empowering Books
A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%, so this is a highly effective hobby for people suffering from stress and anxiety.
Reading powerful books by beautiful authors such as Louise Hay, Eckhart Tolle, Jen Sincero, Deepak Chopra, Bruce Lipton, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, Shakti Gawain, and Wayne Dyer, helped me to get out a very dark anxiety hole.
I can’t thank these people enough for spreading such powerful messages and I have come to love their work so much.
Without exaggeration, I have read some of their books over and over again and I still pick them up now and read a few random pages when I need to be inspired.
If you don’t have the time to read, you can listen to all of these books instead by signing up to a platform such as Audible.
I signed up to audible in 2012 and have been a loyal member since. This is a paid subscription and in my opinion worth the money because I got to listen to many inspiring teachers over the years which I could have not afforded if I was buying each book.
If you don’t know which book to start with, you can choose one of these three:
Louise Hay is a beautiful writer and this book is the first one I read on my healing journey. She writes with purity and transparency, and her voice is soothing and calming. Louise's main message is "If we are willing to do the mental work, almost anything can be healed."
Dr. Chopra clearly outlines in this wonderful book what is the secret to a lasting happiness that cannot be taken away.
4. Going for Walks
Being physically active is essential for managing anxiety because exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, hormones that makes us naturally feel good.
It also helps to release excess energy, which if not released would make you more anxious.
But the trouble is, anxiety as a condition can be very exhausting and overwhelming and so it is often hard to find the motivation to do any form of exercise.
That’s why I always recommend gentle physical activities for people with anxiety, and in my experience, walking is the best form of exercise for anxiety relief.
I love it so much because it helps to relieve anxiety quickly and it's also practical because you can always take a quick walk somewhere near where you live.
On top of that, I love to combine listening to calming music or empowering books while walking because that way I am practicing two hobbies at once which always makes me feel even better and less anxious.
So, put on your headphones and go for a 30-minute walk today. The more you walk, the more you will enjoy it.
5. Connecting with Animals
Spending time with animals - by playing with them and stroking them – can be a great hobby for managing anxiety.
Getting a pet would be of course an amazing solution for that, but it's also not essential.
You can always volunteer at rescue centers by offering to walk their dogs or play with their cats.
The reason animals have such a great effect on your mental health is because, according to research interacting with them can increase the levels of “the love hormone” oxytocin and decrease levels of “the stress hormone” cortisol, which has a calming effect on the body and mind.
For example, one study, showed that,
Interaction between owners and their dogs results in increasing levels of oxytocin in both owners and dogs, whereas cortisol levels decrease in the owners, but increase in the dogs
I had a beautiful German Shephard for 12 years, and he would always come to me when I was feeling very anxious. Stroking him and seeing how happy he is with so little, would always bring me back to the present moment, which is the only moment where we can find anxiety relief and calmness.
There are also a ton of videos on YouTube with animals just being loving and incredible. Watching these can help to lift my mood as well.
6. Dancing in Your Own Home
It might sound silly but dancing in your house or flat when no one is watching is another great hobby for releasing tension and anxiety!
I like to put on my favorite songs and dance away like crazy, doing lots of jumping and freestyle movements. 🙂
If you haven’t tried this before, I urge you to try as soon as possible to see what I mean.
The reason this activity feels so good is because, when we suffer from anxiety, we find it very difficult to relax, and let go.
Well, dancing can really help you to let go big time.
If you live with lots of people, you might not have any time on your own. But you can always lock yourself in the bathroom and do a few crazy movements!
Or if you have a trampoline in the garden, then start jumping! This has a similar effect.
7. Getting into Yoga
Yoga is an ancient technique that is very beneficial for managing anxiety.
Anxiety makes us tense, irritable and inflexible, while yoga can work to reverse all of these, plus nourish us with a whole host of other health benefits.
A lot of people are hesitant about trying yoga because they think they won’t be able to get into certain positions, but I can assure you that anyone can practice yoga.
Yoga is about connecting with your own body, mind and soul, and everyone else is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what the other people are doing, all that matters is that you are listening to your body and doing what you can do.
I have fallen in love with yoga, and it has become a big part of me.
Rest assured that I am not in any way amazing. I just practice for myself and I don’t care how I look to anyone else.
Yoga has helped me to improve my breathing which is essential for managing anxiety.
Start your yoga practice today with these 12 Easy Poses for Beginners.
8. Cooking Enjoyable Meals
Healthy eating is necessary for reducing and managing anxiety. But when we start to eat healthily it can hard to stick with it because we don’t know how to make tasty meals that are healthy and also, we often don’t know what to eat.
That’s why searching for healthy recipes and experimenting in the kitchen is a great hobby to adopt because it can help you eat healthily long-term, which can make enormous positive changes to your anxiety levels.
But that’s not all, cooking as an activity has shown to benefit mental health.
One study showed that adolescents with the most cooking skills reported a greater sense of mental well-being, as well as less symptoms of depression.
To help you get started with this hobby, check out the following articles for anti-anxiety ingredients and tips, and then look for awesome recipes that are in line with what's mentioned in these blog posts.
9. Watching Inspirational Movies
Watching inspirational movies and documentaries, or movies based on a true story, can be very uplifting and motivational to encourage us to make positive changes in our lives.
I have found that watching such movies benefited me the most in the evening after a long day to help me calm down and unwind.
You can start with the following movie:
This is a wonderful and relatable inspirational movie with Louise L. Hay and many other popular self-help authors. I watched this movie after I read her book with the same title, and after that I was hooked on Louise's work.
10. Create Beautiful Pictures
To tell you the truth, I can’t draw to save my life, but I absolutely love 'creating' pictures for my wall using puzzles and coloring books.
According to research,
Adult Coloring Reduces Depressive Symptoms and Anxiety.
I find these activities extremely relaxing and fun, and it's also a great way for me to be present.
The amazing thing about these hobbies is that you can keep doing a little bit every day, and have a wonderful picture at the end.
Check out these beautiful puzzles and coloring books on Amazon.
Zen illustrator Dr. Angela Porter will take you on a relaxing journey with this beautiful collection of forty-nine soothing designs for you to color, each incorporating intricate florals, beautiful swirling and circular patterns, and other aesthetically pleasing, geometric shapes. The pages are perforated and printed on one side.
What Other Hobbies are Good for Mental Health?
Irrespective of how old you are, growing and nurturing plants is a very rewarding activity and according to research has a positive effect on mental health.
Painting can be a wonderful way to let go, express your emotions and relieve anxiety symptoms. One study showed that children who engaged in painting therapy had a significant decrease in the symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) compared to those that didn’t take part.
According to Grayson Perry, an English contemporary artist and writer, “Craft is a form of making which generally produces an object that has a function: such as something you can wear, or eat or drink from”.
Crafts include activities such as embroidery, knitting, candle making, sewing, glass making and so on, and can be a great way to get creative, become present and make something that you can actually use or sell, making this hobby also rewarding.
Grabbing your phone or camera, and going outside to take photographs can be a great way to be more present in your surroundings, because when you are looking for things to photograph, you're going to notice a lot more detail. As mentioned above, being present is the only moment where we can achieve anxiety relief.
Swimming can be another great hobby for people with anxiety.
According to Anxiety UK,
Regular swimming, even just half an hour at a time, is known to be effective for lowering incidences of depression and anxiety and improve sleep patterns. Swimming releases endorphins, the natural feelgood hormones that lead us to experience a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing.
Final Thoughts on Hobbies for People with Anxiety
In my experience the best hobbies for people with anxiety are activities that you can easily adopt as part of your overwhelmed and anxious life.
As someone who suffered from chronic anxiety for 20 years, I know all too well how hard it is to find the energy to introduce extra activities into your life when you feel daily drained by irritability, nervousness, and “mental business”.
For that reason, I have found that activities such as listening to calming music or empowering books while taking a daily walk, going to a gentle yoga class, writing expressively, connecting with animals, dancing in your bedroom, watching inspiring movies before bedtime, putting together puzzles, coloring, and cooking enjoyable meals are some of the best hobbies for people with anxiety.
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