Do you suffer from depression, how about anxiety? Are you looking for natural ways to cope? In this post, I will cover 5 hobbies that help anxiety and depression. I will also visit with 5 bloggers that share their passion in life and how their hobby translates into less anger, anxiety, and stress.
Please note, I am not a doctor and a hobby is not a replacement for treatment. I speak to you from the perspective of someone who’s experienced anxiety my whole life.
I’m also one of those people that don’t like taking medication. Medication, no thanks, the act of taking it gives me anxiety!
That’s why my hobbies are important to me. Giving myself over to a hobby is not only fun, it’s therapeutic and offers a great sense of wellbeing. A hobby removes me from my busy mind and upon completion, leaves me with a sense of accomplishment.
If you’ve seen a counselor to find answers for your own anxiety or depression than you are probably familiar with the benefits of a good hobby. The key to finding peace is to make sure your hands are busy, and your mind distracted.
5 Hobbies that help Depression and Anxiety
Photography, Painting, Reading, Playing a Musical Instrument, Hiking
Books for Anxiety and Depression
My Own Anxiety
I’m not sure how to put this but my anxiety is greater than your anxiety. You don’t really get it! I mean, I know you say you have anxiety but it’s not really the same as mine. You seem fine!
Certainly, you have thought this before. That’s the thing about anxiety, it’s invisible, well sometimes. Not only that, anxiety seems to manifests in different ways depending on the person.
My wife for example claims she has anxiety but her anxiety manifests as anger. When there is too much going on, too many noises, too much repetition she feels like she wants to crawl out of her skin.
Myself, on the other hand, my anxiety feels different. I think it’s always this way. We always feel like our own ailment is some special unique case. We have the bad stuff!
My Anxiety Feels like this
You and I are just out to lunch for a bite at the local café. Everything was fine a minute ago but suddenly I feel uncomfortable. It wasn’t anything you did. It wasn’t anything, in particular, that happened.
It’s just suddenly, I feel hyperaware.
It’s like I’m Neo in the Matrix and just discovered the world is not real, and it’s really scary. The chatter of everyone around me seems extra loud. Now it sounds muffled as if I’m underwater.
My face becomes warm and I start to fidget. That’s my sign, fidgeting. My wife knows me by now. She knows the signs.
If she asks what’s wrong I’ll just say, “I just don’t feel right. I feel weird.” That’s the best I got!
Now, this is my anxiety at its extreme. There are many times it’s much less extreme.
Maybe I get a little chest pain or something. I feel anxiety setting in and my palms get sweaty. I remind myself to stay calm. Do those breathing exercises.
“You’re fine,” I say aloud to myself. “This is ridiculous.”
“Oh, I know, I’ll smile“, I think to myself. I read about that. Smiling releases endorphins, the feel-good magic according to Psychology Today.
So here I am smiling. I hope you are too!
Because guess what, you’re not alone! A lot of us have some crazy shit going on in our heads. It’s different for all of us but it’s also just as big.
Your anxiety or depression is just as big to you as mine is to me. It’s important to keep that context. We all experience things differently, but at the end of the day, it affects our choices.
Will I take that photography shoot? What if my anxiety is acting up?
Will I step outside of my comfort zone and take the path less traveled? Or will I pick the low hanging fruit because It’s what I know, it’s easy, safe!
Will I even go to the party? Home seems like less work, less mentally exhausting!“It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling—that really hollowed-out feeling.” — J.K. Rowling Click To Tweet
5 Hobbies that help Depression and Anxiety
No doubt, anxiety, and depression sucks, but I’m here to help. The following list of hobbies might not cure your anxiety or depression but it will help.
Participating in the following hobbies will lift your spirits, improve your mood, make you feel happier, and relieve stress.
Does Photography help Depression or Anxiety?
Grab your camera and start looking for the beauty in everything! That’s the beauty of photography!
A walk in the park becomes an exploration of possibilities.
A trip to the city becomes a world of endless opportunity.
You need to look at everything with a new perspective and find the magic in the ordinary.
There is no time to focus on you and you’re crazy. Instead, the focus is on everything around you!
Moreover, the more you consume and learn about photography, the more it consumes you!
Between camera settings, lighting, composition, and all the different gear you will have your hands full learning new things. That is a good thing!
Once you have read about these things, it’s time to put them into practice. You have to get out there.
There is a whole world to explore, you have to start moving! You have to be on your feet! It can be a brisk walk, bike ride, hike, it’s exercise!
Photography is so much more than pointing your camera at something and pushing the button.
Living a life with a focus on photography is living a life with a completely new perspective. Only a photographer goes around commenting on beautiful lighting.
This is true even when they don’t have a camera in their hands!
The Too Tired Project
NPR has a great article on Channeling The Pain Of Depression Into Photography. The article introduced me to the Too Tired Project, a Photography Community documenting the collective lived experiences of those suffering from depression.
I decided to reach out to the founder to get a little more information. The below message is from the Too Tired Project.
Based in Vermont, USA, the Too Tired Project is a photography initiative committed to helping those struggling with depression by offering a place for collective creative expression.
The artists who run the project and who contribute their work use photography as a way to both express and communicate their struggles with mental health visually as well as having an outlet to explore their depression and anxiety.
Both the Founder (Tara Wray) and the Curator (Kelly Burgess) of the Too Tired Project have individually made and published personal photography projects that explore their own relationships with depression and anxiety.
Tara Wray’s “Too Tired for Sunshine” confronts depression by documenting the beauty, darkness, and absurdity of everyday life. Drawn from daily life and wanderings, the photos explore loneliness and isolation, as seen through a lens of absurdist dark humor.
The Too Tired Project was founded in 2018 in response to the positive support she received for Too Tired for Sunshine.
Kelly Burgess’ project, Sing Me Back Home, was made on road trips across the United States between 2012-2018. She sees the road trip both as an exploration of the external American landscape and as a way to explore an internal landscape through the use of text, image, and repeating themes.
The work in Sing Me Back Home uses the road trip as a means of searching and the exploration of the cultural and social perception of loneliness.
You can become part of the Too Tired Project by visiting https://www.instagram.com/tootiredproject/
Does Painting Relieve Stress, Anxiety, or Depression?
My friend Andrew Tan of Tangible Day paints miniatures and then blogs about it.
I imagine him hunkered down in his basement around a task lamp, a headband magnifying glass with light adorned to his head.
He adds the final coat of sheen to the Paladins armor without once thinking about anything except how badass this looks.
You see, when Andrew Paints, his thoughts are his own. I’ll let him take over because he describes it best.
Andrew Tan of Tangible Day
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,“ they say.
I have always sought out challenges in my life. I don’t mean that I seek out risky activities, e.g., skydiving, sniffing glue. Rather, I’ve learned over the years that I am attracted to doing things differently because I’m wholeheartedly curious about what I might discover.
And, this also means that I think a lot. A ton. Although I’ve not been diagnosed with anxiety, I understand how swirling, cycling, and often vicious thoughts invade the “normalcy” of day to day living. This is especially true if your life’s circumstances haven’t been favorable to you.
I am blessed with a wonderful library of hobbies and fun past times that I can escape into. I paint miniatures, draw, take photographs, and write creatively.
“Busy hands and idle minds have knitted many a sweater; Busy minds and idle hands have knitted many a brow ”, Maryrose Wood, a famed children’s author, once wrote.
Well, in a nutshell, my hobbies are a way for my mind to rest while I make things into tangible realities. What creative power you have, when you set aside time for your mind to rest while your hands work.
This is why I write my blog, in part to encourage people to pursue their passions, their hobby, the fun things, that make them realize that life is more than circumstance. You were created to create, too.
Check out my blog @ https://tangibleday.com/
This blog is a collection of ruminations written in the margins of life. I love the discovery that a hobby brings. I enjoy painting miniatures. Scale models and miniatures are a medium that can give us a different perspective about the World. My blog is a way to share how I view and think about things around us all. I’m a Dad, a Neuroscientist, Freelance Writer, and Miniature Painter/Photographer/Hobbyist.
Does Reading a Book help Anxiety or Depression?
Yeah, I’m not talking about reading news on the internet, Facebook, etc. That’s stressful!
I’m talking about picking up a good book and just letting it consume you.
Now there are many great self-help books out there but even a fiction book where you escape into some other life is gold in my book.
My friend Tammy is a certified Christian life coach that blogs about her own experiences with depression, grief, and isolation. She also blogs about books, books that can help you on your journey.
I’ll just let Tammy explain because her words are much more eloquent than mine.
Tammy of Just Hope with Tammy
So. Many. Books.
How do I decide which books find a place in my new home and which ones need to find new homes of their own?
My husband and I began the tedious work of packing our home in preparation for an upcoming move – details still TBD due to a pending employment relocation.
My dilemma is that some of my books have become like tried and true friends, ones that I love to revisit from time to time. I know I cannot take box after heavy box of books across state lines into this next chapter of my life.
Reading has been an escape for me as long as I can remember. And while it’s one of my hobbies, it’s been so much more than that for me, especially when the hurtful seasons of life cloud my view.
When I discover a book that provides opportunities for milestone healing moments, it’s similar to finding a trusted friend who can help me see life from a different perspective. One word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time, a book can literally break through walls of isolation, depression, and grief.
It isn’t only carefully chosen books by subject matter experts either. Honestly, many pivotal moments have taken place while reading fiction, especially when it’s based on a true story.
For you see, when our story or hurt connects with someone else’s (with the author or a certain character) we begin to see the colors of their story blend with our own colorful mess. And then we begin to see that, one, we are not alone; and, two…guess what? We aren’t quite as messy as we thought we were.
We simply need to keep writing our own stories, one day at a time, and keep reading.
justhopewithtammy.com – Encouragement when life hurts.
Tammy, a Certified Christian Life Coach, invites you to follow her personal blog and connect your story with her story. She addresses issues such as depression, grief, isolation, and unresolved conflict as she carefully shares her own experiences.
Her blog will encourage you when life hurts with hopeful words, trusted resources, and an invitation to intersect your healing journeys.
She’s been married 33 years to a kind and loving husband who finds great satisfaction in fixing things. They live in PA, with their beautiful rescued kitty cat, where birdwatching is a household hobby.
Does Playing Guitar help with Depression or Anxiety?
I play guitar and ukulele and admittedly I’m not great at either. I learned kind of late but that’s not the point. Learning a musical instrument is a great teacher of the lesson, with patience, come rewards.
I didn’t realize this when I first started learning how to play guitar but it became apparent the more I did it. When I was trying to learn something on guitar my attention was totally consumed.
I was at peace. There were no invasive thoughts. I wasn’t thinking about anything else. Playing guitar actually reduces my anxiety, even during an active anxiety episode.
Don’t just take my word for it though. There have been numerous studies on the mental health benefits of learning to play an instrument.
Take this study led by Dr. James Hudziak, professor of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, and published on Music Education Works.
In a study of children, they found that playing a musical instrument could help with anxiety, controlling one’s emotions, and improving attention. Of course, I’m not a child, but I do know what I feel when I play,…peace!
You know that song, you hear it and it takes you to that special place. Well now imagine you are playing it yourself. The music is coming from you! Imagine the gratification you get.
What’s that saying, music is medicine for the soul. Go make the medicine!
What are the Mental Benefits of Hiking?
Last but certainly not least, Hiking! Hiking is like unearthing the holy grail of all things good for your soul.
According to a study done by researchers at Stanford University, spending time in the great outdoors relieves anxiety, reduces stress, and actually lowers incidents of depression.
Yes, nature is the prescription for mental health.
In the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, they found that people who spent 90 minutes walking through nature as opposed to a high-traffic urban setting reported lower levels of rumination.
Rumination is excessively thinking about the same thought, often which is dark or sad and dangerous to mental health.
The study also revealed that those in the natural area showed reduced neural activity in a part of the brain that is commonly associated with increased risk for mental illness.
Now, this is all in conjunction with the added benefit of exercise! I don’t even need to go there. I know that you know. You do know, right? About the exercise thing? If not, Excercise for Mental Health.
I get it, exercise is boring to some but when your hiking, not as boring!
The New You, a Story of 5 Hobbies
There you have it, 5 Hobbies that help Depression and Anxiety.
Now, I want you to Imagine this. You have your hiking shoes on, you’re on a trail in the beautiful great outdoors! Your backpack is full of water and snacks but it’s also home to your Sony Alpha a7 III mirrorless camera, your out here for a reason. You have a purpose!
In a corner pocket, you have the paperback novel by Richard Adams, Watership Down. There’s no better escape from your own humanity than to live amongst rabbits.
Next to the book, you’re Travel Pocket Watercolor Kit is the perfect answer for some art on the go. After all, when you’re not hanging out with rabbits you’re an Artist in the Field.
Finally, hanging off the side of your pack is your Washburn Rover travel guitar. Why not, you have your tent and plan to spend a couple of nights out here playing melodies to the trees.
Best of all, you have you! Love yourself and appreciate who you are! You are unique and there is strength in your ability to create something unique!
Go Create that thing! Create Art!
Books for Anxiety and Depression
Now What? – Join the Tribe!
Want to join an amazing tribe of photographers, artists, and other creatives. Check out our Facebook group, NFT Photography Community.
We are artists and creative professionals interested in NFT’s, some of us blog. If you don’t have a blog that’s OK. Maybe you will want to start one. If not, we still do fun photography challenges and just talk about photography. It’s free!
Also, don’t forget to jump on the email list to get some free Photoshop Overlays and my weekly email. I want to talk with you about inspiration, photography, blogging, and just staying motivated.
Thanks for sharing our site Michael, and what an interesting article – all the best from the UK, Anita (co-editor of the Music Education Works website)
Thanks Anita, I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and leave a comment.
I’ve found running/ jogging to be an excellent means of mellowing out my own brain and my soul whenever I get a bit out of sorts. Jogging, by nature, is a pretty zen kind of an activity anyway. Very rhythmic with an easy-going tempo which helps to reset one’s brainwave activity to a more desirable frequency. Plus, as an added benefit, jogging burns up calories which would otherwise go straight to your brain and continue fueling the anxiety. Just as a fire extinguisher reduces oxygen to feed a fire, jogging also reduces calories available. Or simply puts those calories to better use.
Running is a great one Bryan, I’m not much of a runner myself but I can understand the benefit. I’ve tried running a few times and ended up with heartburn. Perhaps if I tried it early in the morning as opposed to the evening after dinner.
Thanks for this article and for sharing some of your personal story and insights. A lot of this resonates with me! A couple of hobbies that help with my anxiety are cooking and scrapbooking. Both of these encourage my creativity while also allowing me to “organize” things, which soothes my OCD tendencies (lol). Also, working out helps. I’ve found a particular love for weightlifting.
Thanks for sharing Katrina! It’s great to have other people chime in and share the hobbies in their life that help them deal with anxiety or depression. Scrapbooking and Cooking seem like a great way to keep your hands and your thoughts busy. Makes me want to go use my new grill, lol. :)
I’ll add another hobby to this list, scale model building. really good for stress release
Thank you Lawrence, that does sound like a hobby that will definitely suck you in and consume your attention.