How taking up a hobby can improve your wellbeing

Can hobbies like knitting, baking and painting really make us happier?
14 December 2016

Should you really make taking up a hobby one of your New Year’s resolutions? Whether it’s knitting, kickboxing, cycling or painting, it turns out that you should, as learning a new skill might be a step towards a happier and healthier you.

Our Eudaimonia research report which looked into the impact of lifestyle factors on wellbeing in the UK, found that mental stimulation increases wellbeing by 13%. Consequently, if you are feeling mentally unstimulated and aren’t learning anything new in your daily life it reduces the average score by a massive 35%.

A juggling act

What this research revealed is that alongside physical fitness, quality of relationships and social interactions, education plays quite an integral role in our overall wellbeing, so it’s not an aspect that should be ignored. Furthermore, wellbeing is a bit of a juggling act: a balance between finding time to hit the gym, meet up with friends and enrich your mind with either new skills or knowledge. The goal is to try and incorporate all of these factors into your life so that your overall wellbeing increases. But how do we do this when we are so busy?  

Tips on how to make time for YOU:

  1. Make a bucket list - write down all the activities you have always wanted to do and include the ones you wish to do more of.
  2. Limit or remove distractions i.e. limit TV watching or social media scrolling.
  3. Create a schedule that maps out your week and make sure to balance out the things you HAVE to do and the things you WANT to do.
  4. Try and spend an hour each day doing something for you i.e. reading a book or taking a gym class.
  5. Be daring and drop into a class that is out of your comfort zone. 

Learning a new skill is also in the top five tips for mental wellbeing according to the NHS. It goes on to say that by acquiring a new skill set instils confidence and a sense of achievement.

Our report also found that high mental stimulation activities such as learning a new skill or spending time tackling a challenging problem resulted in the highest wellbeing score of 6.9 (out of 10). The main factors that can hinder our mental stimulation is the feeling of life becoming very routine, thoughts of boredom, or of being too tired to think creatively or independently. If you change your schedule slightly you are making your week  because your routine is changed slightly and you are encouraged to expand your mind to understand this new skill.

Activities like knitting, crocheting song writing, painting, and other design-based skills were the most common examples that improved the happiness of the participants.

Another recent study into how creative activities can improve wellbeing, revealed that the emotional state of 658 students was much higher following days when they did something creative. The study which was led by Dr Tamlin Conner, of the Department of Psychology at Otago University in New Zealand, discovered that activities like knitting, crocheting song writing, painting, and other design-based skills were the most common examples that improved the happiness of the participants. Moreover, being creative even just for a day, had a domino effect on their wellbeing the following day. Dr. Connor and co-authors concluded in The Journal of Positive Psychology that, “overall, these findings support the emerging emphasis on everyday creativity as a means of cultivating positive psychological functioning”.

Our beliefs

Here at Central YMCA we believe that wellbeing is at the very core of society, and for 170 years we have strived to help people live happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives. This purpose is even more important now in present time, as our research revealed that wellbeing is still a struggle for society. Similarly, the ancient Greek idea of Eudaimonia is all about the pursuit of happiness and this journey is key to human flourishing. The unwillingness to try something new might be a block on your pursuit of happiness.
Within YMCA you can learn something new by trying out an evening or weekend course. From a pottery class, to kayak lessons, badminton, ballet or you can even learn a new language. So why not take up a new hobby, what do you have to lose? You might fall in love with something new and maybe you will feel a little happier.