It’s 2021 — we made it. After a year of not being able to run away from our problems — like anxiety, stress, sensitivity, probably crying (don’t deny it) — it’s time to go back to basics, to those self-fulfilling activities that bring us joy.
Picking up new hobbies makes life more colourful — sometimes literally, in the case of art therapy. You could be adding a new tool to your toolbox or sharpening an old one, but if 2020 taught us anything — it’s the small moments that count.
Planting a pot of thyme on your kitchen windowsill or learning a new dance move could be the highlight of your day, and could boost your happiness levels at the same time.
Below, we’re sharing the feel-good hobbies scientifically proven to make you feel more joyful, and give you a serotonin boost that your mental health will be oh so grateful for.
My grandmother is one of the happiest people I know. She chalks it (almost) all up to the love affair she has… with her garden.
Gardening is both a physical and creative exercise that releases endorphins and allows us to express ourselves. It also gives us a sense of responsibility which in turn brings purpose, and purpose feels gooood.
A garden is something you need to care for and when you do, you’re rewarded with beauty, fresh produce, clean oxygen and a reduced carbon footprint.
But there is also some science to it, too. Contact with soil — namely a specific soil bacteria Mycobacterium Vaccae — triggers the release of serotonin in our brain, strengthening our immune system and acting as a natural antidepressant.
Whether your garden is a single house plant, a mini orchard of apple trees, a herb box or a vertical garden, you will feel happier having it and caring for it.
Cooking is an activity that requires mindfulness. You need to be in the moment, right there and now, concentrating on only your surroundings and the steps that need to be taken to achieve your ultimate result: delicious food.
Cooking is also a sensory practice. The ingredients, the utensils, the stove, the oven, the music or podcast you’re playing in the background… they’re all part of the finished product and your body is tuned in. You’ll need to smell things and touch things and be careful of extreme temperatures. Your body is awake and alive, but also relaxed.
The heightened level of mindfulness is proven to ease anxiety and stress, allowing you to concentrate on the task at hand. Even if only for an hour, your body will find a rest from the overworking mind.
If you haven’t been brought up in a kitchen full of working hands, cooking can be intimidating. But fear not! Preparing a meal is easy, provided you follow simple recipes with easily accessible ingredients. Jamie Oliver’s recipes are notoriously simple, while Bon Appetit‘s ‘Basically’ is designed for beginner-level chefs.
Our recommendation: Play some jazz in the background. Miles Davis or Vince Jones always work for me. Jazz and cooking together have a funny way of making you feel like you’re in exactly the right place at the right time.
If you’ve ever danced before, now’s the time to go back to it. Or if you’ve never tried it, now’s your chance! It’s 2021 and we deserve to feel happy and free.
You don’t even need to look good while you do it. If you really dance like no one’s watching, people will follow your lead. Haven’t you ever wanted to know what it feels like to move like Dua Lipa?
Not only a fun outlet, but dancing brings a number of health benefits. Moving your body improves your heart health, muscle strength, balance and coordination. It allows you to be more connected — with yourself, with others; with a potential new social network. It can also reduce chronic pain, minimise your risk of injury in everyday life and elevate your mood instantly.
It’s the perfect activity to break you out of an anxious cycle, after a shit day at work or whenever you’re feeling a little bogged down. Even when you don’t feel like it, all you have to do is show up and dance will do the rest.
Yoga is a natural way to increase serotonin production. It’s also super zen and filled with beautiful Buddhist sentiments.
By helping to reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses, yoga can have a grounded and long-lasting impact on how you process things throughout every facet of your life.
If you didn’t come across “Yoga with Adriene” during lockdown, look no further. She and her pup Benji are the dose of calming energy you need in your life right now. Her videos range from 15 minutes to over an hour, and she portrays yoga in a simplistic, warm and open-minded way.
Come one, come all. All you need is a yoga mat.
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