Hobbies are a wonderful thing. They can pose stimulating challenges, inspire new friendships, provide an outlet for stress and be overall good for your health. In fact, research links engagement in enjoyable activities with lower blood pressure, body mass index and total cortisol. Having fun with a hobby you enjoy can provide a much-needed break from the necessities of work or school. Plus, some are even good for your brain:
Whether it’s learning a new instrument or trying to master the art of songwriting, musical performance has been linked to many brain-benefiting improvements, specifically the increased strength of one’s corpus callosum when writing or performing music.
Another art form, painting, has relatively similar benefits. Painting or drawing stimulates both the right and left brain hemispheres, which help deal with logic elements as well as creativity and emotions. These improvements have even led to research in treating Alzherimer's patients with painting and drawing activities, as it has shown the ability to strengthen memory and boost imagination.
Websites like Lumosity have developed cutting-edge games tailored to your individual “brain training.” Some genuinely enjoy these brain games, which neuro-scientists and academics from around the world have collaborated to create, transforming science and improved cognition into fun games.
Collecting any item that you enjoy - whether it’s old coins, collecting historic stamps, a comic collection, anything - inspires the productive habit to effectively collect information, whether it’s the value of an item, personal background or other interesting tidbits. Being able to look at an item and immediately bring up information about it keeps the mind sharp and your interest strong. It can also inspire friendships; for example, as a surprise to many, stamp collecting is not just a thing of the past -- it has become quite the popular hobby lately.
The New England Journal of Medicine found that dance boosts brain function, specifically in the demand for physical adjustments in accordance with artistic and guided transitions. The social element is also an added plus, as dance often relies on collaboration and teamwork.
Learning a New Language
English is such a pivotal subject growing up in school, not only because of the obvious linguistic importance - but also because of how analysis of grammatical structures can aid our thought process. Research agrees; multilingual speakers score better on standardized tests and better recall list or sequences, a byproduct of their extensive language instruction no doubt.
Traveling to anywhere learn inspires learning across all spectrum's, including some of the aforementioned hobbies. Learning painting or dance in another country, with different customs, can open up the learning experience even more so. Plus, being forced to get around - by using a new language and adapting to customs - demands your cognition to work as proficiently as possible.
Growing plants have been shown to reduce one's cortisol levels, likely due to the rewarding feelings of nurturing a plant and watching it grow. With studies also showing that gardening can reduce dementia by 36%, the brain-boosting benefits of gardening are very promising.
Chess demands a lot of your thought process for good reason. The highly strategic game has a slew of mental benefits, covered thoroughly here. Chess is a vigorous mental workout where even learning strategy can exercise both hemispheres of the brain. Good chess strategy aligns with good memory as well, which helps to maintain the overall effectiveness of one's strategic thinking and cognitive abilities as they stare down the board.
Working out can make you fit both inside and out. Studies show that regular exercise improves memory and thinking skills, specifically in “its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.”
These ten exercises are all fun in their own ways, yet share a common bond in being great for your brain as well. Enjoy your hobbies with your brain strength in mind.
These are really well-researched findings Kacey. I am definitely interested in par-taking of some of these suggestions for both the cognitive and social benefits! I really enjoyed your article.