How we spend our leisure time can make a huge impact on both our physical and mental well-being. Anything you find joy in doing, whether it’s hobbies, sports or spending time in nature, can help you recover from stress and help you relax, which in turn makes you feel happier. Americans who engage in creative activities at least once a week report better mental health than those who don’t, according to new research from the American Psychiatric Association.
It finds that specific activities helped the most people relieve stress. The top five happiness and well-being boosting creative activities are:
- Listening to music - It’s one of the most popular leisure activities and 77% of study participants report that listening to music eases stress and anxiety. Hearing music you enjoy can help “balance the amygdala,” the part of the brain that regulates emotions. Even if you’re not actively listening, just having background music on can lower levels of anxiety and help you relax.
- Solving puzzles - This activity reduces stress for nearly 40% of people in the study. Doing crosswords, Sudoku and other kinds of puzzle games engages the prefrontal cortex, which plays an important part in cognitive functions including thinking, decision making and concentration.
- Singing or dancing - A quarter of study participants find singing and dancing help ease stress and anxiety. Physical activity releases natural endorphins, which help us feel good and singing and dancing help us process and express emotions.
- Drawing, painting or sculpting - Art therapy is used as a treatment for mental illness and these activities help 24% of people in the study relieve stress. Even if you don’t think you can draw, just letting yourself try can help express emotions, which helps people deal with anxiety and other negative emotions.
- Creative writing - There’s a reason journaling is a tool often used in mental health treatment. Writing can be a therapeutic form of expression, and it benefits 16% of study participants’ mental health. As with any of these activities, it’s a distraction and as long as you’re enjoying it, it’s helping.
Source: Huff Post