According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America Survey, Americans are extremely stressed out, citing the pandemic, the state of politics in our country, work and money as reasons why.
Unfortunately, stress isn’t just a bad thing because it bums us out and prohibits us from living a happy life. It’s also detrimental to our health in both the long-term and short-term, leading to issues with weight, diet and sleep, which can cause serious problems down the road.
So what’s the solution? To lower stress levels, of course! You already know that you need to do things like meditate, take baths and take breaks from work to get your stress hormones down.
But did you know that taking up a hobby or “purposeful activity” can reduce stress and anxiety levels as well? That’s because it forces us to unwind from the daily grind and quiet the mind, providing a rush of happiness hormones and that unmistakable rewarding feeling.
Stock up on some essential hobby tools and get your creative juices flowing because we’ve got an amazing list of stress-relieving activities for you to try. All of the below activities can be picked up in the comfort of your own home for the ultimate stress-busting remedy.
1. Meditation — Meditation isn’t really an activity. In fact, it’s more like a lack of activity. But it’s one of the best and best-proven ways to relieve stress, so we still thought it deserved a top spot on this list. If you’re new to the practice, try guided meditation with an app, such as Calm or Headspace.
2. Drawing — Drawing has been used by mental health pros and art therapists for decades to help calm the mind. The release of creative energy, coupled with the instant gratification of seeing something you are creating come together right before your eyes, has a way of making you feel relaxed and de-stressed.
3. Stretch or Exercise — There is so much research out there confirming what we already know from first-hand experience: exercise lowers stress levels, reduces anxiety and instantly boosts mood. Whether it’s a low-impact, relaxing stretch session on the living room floor or a hard-hitting run on the treadmill to your favorite workout playlist, you’ll experience a rush of joy and inner peace after the fact. Make sure to exercise daily for consistent stress reduction.
4. Wood Carving — Let your creativity run wild with some woodworking hand tools and a nice slab of wood. Wood carving engages the mind and hand, often with no guidelines, so it’s perfect for the creative type who doesn’t want to get boxed in. If you appreciate intricate carvings, you will love this hobby.
5. Playing Music — If you’ve ever strummed a guitar or played a melody on the piano, you know that playing music has a way of singing the stress away. Unsurprisingly, studies confirm that playing an instrument can help relieve stress because it lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, helping you tap into your inner state of calm.
6. Listening to Music — In the same vein, researchers have found that simply listening to music can help relieve stress and make you feel more relaxed. If you’re like many people, you probably don’t think to turn on the music unless you’re doing something mindless, like cooking or washing the dishes. Try to remember to turn the music on while you’re relaxing or practicing your favorite hobbies to reap the full benefits of this calming activity.
7. Reading — Reading has the power to take you to a whole other universe and headspace, but you want to be careful about what you read if you’re in a stressed-out state. Steer clear of serious nonfiction or anything hyper-realistic when you’re feeling anxious. Opt instead for fantasy or comedy.
8. Knitting — The repetitive hand movements of knitting or crocheting can be an excellent distraction from day-to-day life. Like crafting or drawing, knitting produces a physical reward — the mittens, hat or scarf you’ve knitted — and also the psychological one — happiness, calm and pride.
9. Jewelry Making — If you prefer a hobby that really gets your creative juices flowing, try jewelry making. Whether you work with precious metals and gemstones or hemp, wire and leather doesn’t matter. Jewelry making can help you create gorgeous, one-of-a-kind pieces that showcase your sense of style.
10. Gardening — Gardening has been proven to naturally relieve stress, and it’s not hard to see why. It combines a few of the most powerful stress-busters — fresh air, repetitive motions and creativity — into one single hobby. You also get the incredible reward of reaping what you sow, which might be gorgeous spring blossoms for a mood-lifting bouquet or a fridge full of fresh-grown veggies and herbs to cook with.
11. Cooking — Learning how to cook is an excellent life skill and one that can help distract you from the stress and triggers that surround you in day-to-day life. You might also try baking or cake decorating for a fulfilling, relaxing activity.
12. Doing Nothing — There’s no doubt about it: certain activities can calm the mind and provide deep stress relief. But don’t be too concerned about staying busy, as sometimes this alone can worsen your stress. For many, relief comes from doing absolutely nothing or a few low-energy activities. Taking walks, listening to music, meditating and sitting on the porch on a nice evening are all great ways to lower stress.
Finding the Perfect Activity
A good stress-relieving activity is one that doesn’t cause unnecessary stress itself and one that you can hop into without any special training or tools. Ideally, it’s one that will take your mind off the stressors that surround you, helping to quiet racing thoughts and lower your heart rate. Any or all of the above activities can help you do that when you’re feeling extra tense.