Finding your ‘flow’ is good for your health. Whether it be colouring-in, writing or candle making, losing yourself in an activity you enjoy can make you really, really happy.
But don’t just take my word for it; science says so too.
One study, published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, followed over 100 adults as they went about their daily activities, and found those who had hobbies — any hobby — were 34 per cent less stressed than those who didn’t. Not only did they report feeling happier, their heart rates were lower too.
If you’ve ever been in the middle of something, looked up at the clock and realised five hours has passed and it felt like thirty minutes, then you, my friend, have a mindful hobby. If you don’t? You can relax, because we have you sorted. Here are seven of our favourite activities to lose ourselves in.
Playdough is the new colouring in — haven’t you heard? Mamamia’s Creative Director Mia Freedman is firmly on board.
“I am such a fidgeter. I find it hard to concentrate for long periods of time and my default is picking at my nails or my cuticles. I need something to touch and play with if I have to sit still. Meetings are the worst for me. Play dough really helps,” Mia says.
“I first discovered that when I was in a strategy session and the facilitator handed out tubs of Play-Doh to everyone. It really helped! Now I buy my own and I have it in my office and I bring it to meetings and when I’m recording my podcasts too. My podcast guests love it.”
WATCH: Is play dough really the path to mindfulness? We gave it a try. (Post continues after video.)
Here in this warm, safe space, I bring to you my idea of calm: cleaning.
If, like me, like to tidy up when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, take comfort in knowing that there is a scientific reason why it feels good (also take comfort in the fact that you can’t be judged. Because this is The Glow and judgment does not exist here.)
This is especially true if your cleaning weapon of choice is washing the dishes. I kid you not. According to one study by Florida State University, published in Mindfulness Journal, washing dishes can both lower feelings of nervousness by 27 per cent and increase feelings of inspiration by 25 per cent.
So how does one wash dishes mindfully, I hear you ask? You need to focus and be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes — like the smell of the soap, and how hot or cool the water is, how the dishes feel on your hands. Too easy.
Tackling this? Heaven. (Image: iStock.)
Keeping a journal is good for our mental health. The very act of writing down what you’re feeling forces you to be honest with yourself about your emotions.
Astudy by the University of Texas found that expressive writing (writing about thoughts and feelings that arise from stress) in particular results in an increase in health, as well as a decrease use of pain relievers.
But don't think this means you have to invest a huge amount of your time to reap the benefits. The participants in the study were required to write for 15 minutes a day. Pretty achievable, huh?
Cross stitching, knitting, DIY — anything that keeps your hands moving is good for mind, too. Focusing on one particular thing not only allows you to quieten your mind, but also helps to release stress through creative expression.
Crafting can even act as an antidepressant and protect your brain from aging. A study published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy found that knitting increased feelings of happiness in people suffering from depression. Among the participants, 81 per cent reported feeling calm and happy after knitting. The researchers also found that more frequent knitters reported higher cognitive functioning.
I think almost any issue can be solved with a big walk. Getting out and walking is one of the easiest ways to really calm you down and hash things out.
A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, by researchers from The University of Rochester, found being outdoors can give you more energy, make you feel more restored and enhance your vitality. Plus, nature has a way of putting everyday stress into perspective. (Post continues after gallery.)
Gardening outside, whether it be out in the bush or tending to your pots on your balcony, is proven to increase your mood.
Participants in a University of Westminster study were asked about their mood before and after a session of gardening, and reported heightened self-esteem and reduce feelings of tension, depression and anger.
All the more reason to pull out those overgrowing weeds in the front yard...
Whether you read the newspaper, coffee table books or a recipe book, there's a reason why reading can calm your mind. It helps to slow down your heart rate and ease muscle tension. Science says so. A study by the University of Sussex found that reading, even for as little as six minutes, can help to reduce stress levels by 68 per cent.
What do you love to do to relax?