My Heinemann Australian Dictionary gives the following as the definition for hobby, ‘any activity which is done in one’s spare time for personal enjoyment.’ There is a wide range of activities considered to be hobbies. Some people enjoy participating in or watching motor racing, team sports or extreme sports. Other people prefer quieter, more relaxing activities. What are some of the hobbies considered to be the most relaxing? This is probably partly a matter of personal taste and skills. While some find reading very relaxing, it is unlikely someone who struggles to read would find reading a novel a relaxing way to spend their spare time.
Hobbies are good for you because they provide a change from work activities. Some hobbies are particularly good for calming the mind. If all your attention is on your hobby your brain can be in a state similar to meditation. Those hobbies that stimulate creativity can give a feeling of satisfaction.
Studies have been done to come up with a list of hobbies that are relaxing. Four of these are reading, music, knitting and walking a dog. Why is each one of these activities relaxing and what benefits does it bring?
Reading Reading a novel can transport your mind to another place. However, if you are reading non fiction on a topic you are passionate about, that can be as relaxing as fiction. One study showed just six minutes of reading is sufficient to reduce stress levels by more than 66%. This research found reading was quicker and more effective at lowering stress levels than any other leisure activity.
Psychologists explained this by pointing out the need for the reader to concentrate on reading. Reading eases the tension in the body’s muscles including the heart. Some people find reading last thing at night helps them get a good night’s sleep.
Listening to music The research showed listening to music reduced stress by 61%. Playing music was also found to be relaxing even if the player was not particularly skilled.
Music can reduce anxiety and pain. When listening to music with slow beats a person can be in a state similar to meditation.
Knitting Studies have shown knitting to be very relaxing. Some research suggests it is more relaxing than reading especially in potentially stressful situations such as waiting for a doctor’s appointment. The repetition involved in knitting calms people because it triggers the release of serotonin. Knitting distracts from problems that have been causing stress.
Walking a dog Walking on your own or with a human companion is good for you and reduces stress. Walking a dog has additional benefits. You have a reason to connect with other dog lovers. You may feel there is a greater purpose for taking a walk and you may feel safer than if you were walking alone. Just being around a dog can lower your cortisol level so you feel relaxed. Of course these relaxing benefits depend on your dog walking well on his/her leash and not barking at other dogs.
It is important to take some time out for hobbies. Don’t feel you are wasting time when you spend time on a hobby. You are making an investment in your health and wellbeing.