In a city as fast-paced and competitive as Hong Kong, it’s difficult to escape the occasional bout of stress or even anxiety. While our environment often tells us to prioritise work over leisure, it’s important to find time to pursue your hobbies, as their long-term benefits can prevent burnout and keep us on the right track. In fact, the personal gratification, increased mental focus, and the social element of pursuing our hobbies all have health benefits, such as decreasing our cortisol levels and blood pressure.
While we all know about the benefits of yoga, hiking, reading or cooking when it comes to de-stressing, we’ve collective a couple of hobby ideas you might’ve not considered or tried yet. Bring it on 2017!
Let’s get this out of the way first: don’t get sucked into a gendered view of this hobby. Knitting or crocheting has had a longstanding reputation for helping people cope with anxiety, depression, and even mental health disorders. In fact, The New York Times has written an entire piece about the health benefits of knitting last year, where studies have shown that this activity is used to help individuals quit smoking, cope with personal tragedy, control weight, deal with chronic pain, and better mental dexterity.
According to the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, «those who engaged in crafts like knitting and crocheting had a diminished chance of developing mild cognitive impairment and memory loss» as well. Since it’s January, what better time to grab some needles and get to work on a scarf?
Most will have heard about the growing Bullet Journalling craze of recent years, where its advocates who swear by this practice for staying organised, motivated, and positive. Whether it’s keep a Bullet Journal or good old fashion diary, writing a little bit everyday has shown to have proven health benefits.
A University of Texas study has shown that regular journalling has «strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes», with decreasing asthma, cognitive fog rheumatoid arthritis symptoms noted as additional benefits. The unifying factor is that reflecting upon and writing down one’s thoughts helps to maintain one’s emotional wellbeing and remain in the present.
Gardening is one hobby that has very obvious health benefits, as it directly correlates to getting more sunlight, oxygen, and physical exercise. Similar to that of hiking, gardening connects us with nature, which can help with finding emotional balance through mental focus. As all gardeners would agree, there’s nothing quite like seeing your plants literally bearing the fruits of your labour!
If you’re thinking that this hobby is unrealistic for a city like Hong Kong, you’d be wrong! Urbanisation has led to the rise of indoor gardening, a phenomenon that has seen tremendous growth in recently years. From hydroponics to vertical planters, you can now grow a host of plants and veggies from a sunny windowsill. Check out some useful resources here.
Owning A Pet
We all know of the therapeutic and recuperative benefits of animals, as hospitals often open their doors to trained pups and cats to help their patients recover emotionally and physically. But studies have shown that owning a pet goes far in helping to even treat mild depression.
Companionship, feeling a sense of empowering responsibility, need to get physical exercise, and routine are just some of the notably positive changes that owning a pet can bring into your life. If you’re in the right place in your life and have the resources to properly care for a pet for the long-term, then we suggest visiting one of the many amazing animal shelters in Hong Kong and adopting a furry friend! Here are a few we recommend: SPCA, HKDR, LAP, and HK Paws.
Many of us aren’t aware that our brains need to be regularly challenged in order to stay active, engaged, and healthy like any other organ. Repetitive tasks or boredom can actually lead to anxiety, as our brains need to stay vigorous and active in order to deal with stress-inducing situations that arise. This then becomes a negative cycle as the stress hormone cortisol in turn causes impaired cognitive abilities.
Jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, and crosswords have all shown to be effective in reducing stress, where doing crosswords even correlates to a lowered chance of developing dementia.