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3 Mental Health Benefits of Pursuing a Hobby

3 Mental Health Benefits of Pursuing a Hobby

About a year ago, I decided that I was going to take my personal journaling and turn it into a website. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing and I hadn’t quite identified a reason why I was doing it, but I felt this indescribable pull to start writing more frequently and sharing my thoughts with others. In this past year, I have written and published almost 30 articles, reaching readers all over the world.

In the end, I’ve made a total of $0 from these efforts. But, I realized along the way that this has become an incredibly fulfilling hobby for me at a time when I was really seeking fulfillment and purpose in my life.

I have also watched my husband develop and hone in on his hobby of woodworking. He has built us incredible pieces for our home and has given projects away as presents to friends and loved ones. He has brought in a grand total of $0 with his hobby as well.

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What I have found is that a hobby doesn’t need to be an additional source of income. Even further, no matter how busy we are—we can always make time for it. When I started writing, I was working full time, going to graduate school full time, and also teaching a college class one day a week. If we want to make time, we will find it.

The truth is that creating space in your life to pursue a passion in the form of a hobby has incredible benefits on your mental health.

Here are 3 mental health benefits that I have discovered in the past year:

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1. Regaining a sense of control

Life is full of stuff we have no control over. This can be frustrating and intimidating. Sometimes, even if we are lucky enough to get paid for doing what we love, it comes with a price. We might have a supervisor to report to, deadlines to meet, little say over our direction, or a financial overhead to consider.

But a hobby is yours and yours alone. You can choose how to spend your time, you can choose when you want to work on it, and you can take full creative licensure over your work and make it all about you. This brings control back into your life and allows you to manifest and take ownership of something that YOU brought to fruition. You even have the right to decide if you want to share it with the world or keep it to yourself. You alone have the ability to make all of these decisions because this hobby is about you and pursuing what makes you feel happy and whole.

2. Feeling accomplished

We all need a solid ‘win’ every once in awhile. Whenever I finish an article, even if it doesn’t get published in the first place I send it to, I feel this sense of pride over the completion of a task. I watch my husband’s sense of accomplishment when he completes a new project and we either find a place for it in our home or we give it away to someone else.

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There is something truly beautiful about setting out to do something, following through on it, and then witnessing the final product come together. Its even more beautiful to know that whatever this final product is, it came from a place of genuine, authentic and intrinsic motivation. In my mind, there is nothing more fulfilling than a passion project, because its not just the completion that is the accomplishment—it is the whole journey.

3. Finding purpose and meaning

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t occasionally need some motivation to get out of bed in the morning. But, when I have an idea of something to write—my entire body comes to life. My wheels start turning and I can’t wait to get my thoughts on paper. It just so happens that I write for myself and for others. So, when I have a reader reach out to me and tell me that I helped them in some way, I feel like my life has more meaning.

But the truth is that whether your hobby is to create some form of art, to volunteer in service of others, to enhance a personal skill, or to bring people together for a sport or event—the excitement that we feel when we are pursuing what we love really fills our lives with meaning.

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The idea is to choose a hobby that guides you into your ‘flow state,’ or a state that allows us to lose sense of time by becoming so engaged in a task that everything else slips away. When we reach this mental state, we get a glimpse into our soul—into that little place inside of us where our authenticity and happiness thrives. Once we access this place, the mental health benefits are far reaching.

As a counselor, I often remind people that our career doesn’t need to be the only avenue for deriving meaning and purpose from our lives. Sometimes, we simply can’t afford to chase our passion as a career— but that doesn’t mean these sources of joy need to slip away. If you can make some money pursuing your hobby, great. But, that’s not the only reason to follow through with it. Because identifying and pursuing a hobby can ignite a spark in us to live more purposefully—and you can’t put a price tag on that.

Featured photo credit: Stokpic via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

1. Understand Yourself Better

Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

2. Keep Track of Small Changes

I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

3. Become Aware of What Matters

As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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4. Boost Creativity

The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

6. Process Life Experiences

When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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7. Stress Relief

In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

8. Provide Direction

Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

9. Solve Problems

Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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10. Find Relief From Fighting

Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

11. Find Meaning in Life

Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

12. Allow Yourself to Focus

Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

14. Let the Past Go

I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

15. Allow Freedom

Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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16. Enhance Your Career

Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

18. Catalog Your Life for Others

No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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