7 Best Hobbies To Improve Your Mental Health

Do you recognize the signs when your mental health needs TLC? Anxiety, irritability, insomnia and depression aren't normal. They're your brain's way of saying, "I need a spa day!" One of the best things you can do is make time every week for a hobby. What are the best hobbies for mental health?

1. Singing

Music is amazing for your heart and mind. It has the power to touch your emotions. Whenever I feel depressed or sluggish, I pop in my favorite records (now they’re on a USB stick) and go wild. Singing connects you with music on a deeper level and helps you remember happy memories with loved ones. If you want to improve your technique, sign up for vocal lessons at the community college.

2. Playing a Musical Instrument

Happy or sad, when you play your instrument, you let your emotions flow in a healthy way. Learning to play a musical instrument gives you a sense of satisfaction and boosts your self-esteem. It’s also good for keeping your brain sharp. The guitar, piano, ukulele, harmonica and drums are fairly easy for adults.

3. Jamming

I really love music. It offers so many possibilities for chasing the blues away. Jamming means playing in a band with friends or family members. This hobby it exercises your memory and keeps your mind active. It's also a surefire cure for loneliness.

4. Dancing

Dance in your living room in your socks. Invite a special someone to take ballroom dancing lessons. Go to YouTube to find the latest dancing crazes and learn the steps. Every kind of dancing offers mental health benefits. 

Dancing combines exercise with music. Physical activity is a smart idea if you’re depressed because it activates feel-good hormones called endorphins. Just let go as the rhythms flow through your body. You can literally dance your worries away!

5. Gardening

Sunshine, fresh air, blue skies, green plants and beautiful flowers are a perfect recipe for getting rid of stress. They take your mind off other things and let you appreciate the little things in life. On days when the phone keeps ringing off the hook, this is my way of telling the world to leave me alone for an hour. Make yourself some refreshing iced tea with lemon ahead of time!

6. Photography

Creative activities exercise all parts of your brain: imagination, problem solving, decision making, memory and analysis skills. Your brain’s neural pathways keep growing and adapting. Photography is an excellent way to put your creativity to good use.

To take the mental health benefits to the next level, go for a hike with your camera. Hiking in nature, and stopping to snap pictures of beautiful scenes, can break up repetitive negative thoughts and replace them with positive emotions. By the time you get back home, I guarantee you’ll have a big smile.

7. Cooking Classes

One of my favorite hobbies is inviting a few friends over to my house for girls’ night and paying for a cooking class in my kitchen. We drink a little wine, learn to cook some exotic food together and feel way happier afterward. YouTube is a cheap substitute when you want to learn a new recipe, eat delicious comfort food and show off for friends.

Hobbies are good for your physical brain and your emotional wellbeing. They protect your mental health and lower stress. And when you're happier, it benefits your entire body, from your immune system to your blood pressure!

Do You Need Help with Your Anxiety?

Most people experience a good deal of anxiety on a daily basis. Work is often the basis of stress for many people, while others might feel anxious about their home life and family obligations. Others still experience a genuine anxiety disorder, which can cause constant bouts of anxiety and panic attacks.

When attempting to get a handle on your anxiety, you must first know what you're dealing with. Understanding the difference between daily anxiety and a more serious disorder is the first step to getting help and improving your life. Here are a few things to consider if you experience a great deal of stress on a regular basis.

Normal Anxiety vs. Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety plays a very crucial role in assessing and preparing for risks. For instance, anxiety about a big work project can motivate you to do your best and ensure you're truly prepared. In this case, the feeling is proportionate to the event or task you're facing. These feelings are relatively easy to manage, meaning they don't impede your life in any way.

On the other hand, an anxiety disorder can cause intense feelings of panic and stress within ordinary situations. Additionally, feelings of anxiety are so intense that they make it challenging to function normally. Anxiety disorder can manifest in a few ways, including:

  • Generalized Anxiety - Generalized anxiety causes a chronic feeling of worry about everyday events. Worry often becomes excessive and prevents a person from living life to its fullest.
  • Panic Disorder - Panic attacks involve intense bouts of fear and anxiety that seemingly come from nowhere. They can also cause physical symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness. 
  • Phobias - Phobias are irrational fears related to specific objects or events. When you encounter the subject of your phobia, you're likely to experience intense fear and panic. 
  • Social Anxiety - People can also be intensely fearful of social situations. This can entail difficulty speaking with people one to one, as well as fears about speaking in public or being surrounded by a crowd. 
  • Separation Anxiety - While children are most susceptible to this form of anxiety, adults can also experience it. It's characterized by intense fear when being separated from a loved one, even for a short period of time.

Anxiety disorders typically last six months or more. They can lead to additional symptoms, such as problems sleeping, ongoing fatigue, tension in the muscles, and irritability. They can often be confused with regular anxiety or some other health issue.

How to Get Help When Feeling Stressed and Anxious

There are a number of techniques you can use to manage daily stress and worry. If you feel anxious at work, take frequent breaks to clear your head. If possible, take a walk around the office or around the building. At home, incorporate relaxing activities into your routine to unwind after a long day. Things like yoga and meditation are easy to perform at home and offer numerous mental health benefits.

When it comes to anxiety disorder, you must seek professional assistance. Mental health counseling is beneficial for identifying negative patterns in thinking and overcoming them. A counselor can also help you develop healthy coping mechanisms to use during times of stress and worry. While it can depend on the severity of the symptoms, medication is also beneficial for people experiencing panic attacks and extreme bouts of anxiety.

Take Control of Your Health and Wellness

No one should have to live their life mired in a cloud of worry. It is possible to lead a happy life and reduce stress when you take the right steps. By taking control of your mental wellness, you'll experience greater fulfillment personally and professionally.

4 Food Items To Avoid if You Have Anxiety

Nearly 40 million Americans have an anxiety condition, typically attributed to chronic stress. While most medical professionals recommend therapy, medication, and mindfulness or behavioral changes, there is evidence to suggest that changes to your diet can significantly affect the severity and frequency of attacks. 

While most anxiety disorders will require medical or therapeutic intervention, dietary choices can help reduce some persistent symptoms. Therefore, if you have a diagnosed anxiety condition or experience occasional anxiety attacks, you might want to avoid certain foods and beverages.

1. Alcohol

While it might seem counterintuitive, alcohol can trigger or worsen anxiety symptoms. Many people, especially those with social anxiety, tend to consume alcohol at gatherings, assuming it calms their nerves. In truth, alcohol affects hydration and sleep, lowering serotonin and neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety symptoms when the effects of the drink wear off.

2. Caffeine

In low doses, caffeine is safe and will have minimal effect on the body or brain. However, high amounts of the ingredient can lead to increased nervousness and anxiety. Over 60% of Americans drink coffee, and the average coffee drinker typically has more than three cups daily, according to the National Coffee Association. Drinking that much coffee puts you over the 400-milligram caffeine limit.  

While consuming too much caffeine can exacerbate anxiety disorders, it can also lead to depression. Depending on the amount you consume and how often, the substance can decrease the production of serotonin, the body’s feel-good hormone, resulting in depressed moods. 

Keep in mind that caffeine is not only an ingredient in beverages. Many food items and products also contain it, including chocolate and headache medications.

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3. Added Sugar 

Sugar is naturally occurring, which means that avoidance is impossible, especially if you follow standard nutritional guidelines and eat primarily fruits and vegetables. Thankfully, natural sugar is not your enemy; added sugar is.  

Your blood sugar levels behave unpredictably when you consume too much added sugar, resulting in spikes and crashes. During a crash, anxiety levels spike, and your mood typically sours. While the body releases insulin to balance out your levels, it often has to work too hard, causing more highs and lows. Therefore, especially when heavily consumed, processed sugars can lead to worry, sadness, and irritability.

4. Refined Carbs 

Refined carbohydrates come in two forms: refined sugars and refined grains. This group of carbs can lead to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Additionally, these foods hold little nutritional value as they have been stripped of their micronutrients and fiber. Beyond the potential risks of life-threatening conditions and lack of nutrition, refined grains are also linked to anxiety conditions, including depression.  

The primary examples of refined carbs include white rice, bread, and flour. You are likely to find refined carbs in many everyday foods, such as: 

  • Pastries 
  • Soda 
  • Pasta 
  • Breakfast cereals 
  • Processed meats 
  • Processed snacks

If you have an anxiety condition, try to stay away from foods and beverages containing the above. While complete avoidance is challenging, it would be best if you ensured the above items did not make up much of your diet. 

Do you have any dietary advice for those with anxiety? Leave a comment below.