What are the best hobbies for depression? Read my top 10 tips

what are the best hobbies for depression

You’ve been diagnosed with depression and your doctor has told you to get a hobby. Once you’ve restrained yourself from screaming in said doctor’s face, I advise you calmly leave the building and take yourself home for a lie down.

Being told this by your GP can feel extremely patronising. Do they think we can just knit our way out of depression? Take a photography course and all is well again? It’s not that easy and I’m 100% on your side with that one.

But there are a few hobbies that are worth trying out on those days where you can find the energy to try your hand and something different. I’d love to know if you’re willing to give some of these a go…

1. Yoga

Doctors will regularly recommend yoga for those with depression, and although it’s not for everyone I personally find it very helpful when I’m finding it hard to relax. I wrote about it in more detail last year when I started going more regularly to help ease my symptoms when I moved away from home.

2. Running

It might sound like your idea of hell, but many people claim running has been a major factor in their recovery from depression. I took up running after going to fitness classes for a year or so, looking for a new challenge to test my abilities. Although I don’t enjoy it as much as other forms of exercise I can see why many enjoy the solitude and fresh air that comes with the hobby.

3. Walking

If running seems a little too advanced then I highly recommend trying walking instead. Either alone or with a friend, the benefits of walking are well-documented and can give you a sense of achievement on days when you feel unmotivated.

4. Drawing

This is a pastime that was always encouraged when I was a child, and I can see why. It’s good at keeping you distracted without the use of TV or video games and it’s a great creative outlet.

5. Blogging

Obviously I’m biased about this one! I started blogging a few years ago when I was unfit for work and felt the urge to be creative. You don’t need to write about depression; write about whatever pleases you and do it under another name if you don’t want anyone to know it’s you.

what hobbies are good for depression

6. Journaling

If you still want to write but not necessarily hit ‘publish’ online, then journaling could be for you. Grab a notebook and just explain how you’re feeling. I know from experience that trying to explain or even experience emotions when you have depression can feel like an impossible task. There are lots of good advice posts and prompts available out there to get you started.

7. Cooking

After years of restricting my food intake and binge eating junk food, I’m learning to enjoy all types of food again for their health benefits. I feel at my best when I’m eating lots of fruit, vegetables and some sweat treats for good measure (Oreos are food for the soul) and cooking plays a big part in that. I like the satisfaction of cooking a meal from scratch, especially if I know it’s going to make me feel good.

food-salad-healthy-lunch

8. Reading

I think people who want to ‘get a hobby’ often forget about the simple joy of reading. It’s basically free (remember those places called libraries?) and most people can do it. There are a million different genres be it fiction or non-fiction, self-help or fantasy; there’s sure to be something to keep you occupied.

EXTRA BONUS TIP! When you want to read but you can’t concentrate (a common problem with depression) then listen to podcasts.My current obsessions are My Favourite Murder, Desert Island Discs, Pro Blogger, Ctrl Alt Delete, Generation Why, Unsorry and Standard Issue Magazine.

9. Gardening

The thought of tackling an overgrown garden might be a bit much, but some light weeding or planting some flowers in pots could be a good idea. This is something that you can dedicate 30 minutes to everyday and see progress over time, which should give you a sense of achievement.

10. Play an instrument

If you can already play an instrument then why not set aside some time to practise a few times a week? It’s a good way to create some focus for short periods of time and gives you a physical and creative outlet. Also find singing along to my favourite music has the same effect.

Have you found a particular hobby that has helped ease the symptoms of your depression?

Blogging for introverts: heaven or hell? 

blogging for introverts mental health UK

I was going to name this Tips for introvert bloggers! But then I realised I don’t actually have any tips, and I haven’t yet figured out if the whole world of blogging is actually a good thing or a bad thing for introverts. Is it heaven or hell?

Well first of all, no one ever thought to tell me that I was an introvert. Annoying really, because since I figured it out myself a few months ago it’s made me so much more aware of my behaviour, and has offered a somewhat reasonable explanation for why I act so weirdly unsociable at times. I’m one of those people that can’t do too much in one day. My idea of hell is going on holiday with someone who uses an itinerary. Get out. I need down time, and lots of it thank you very much. I’m more than happy to climb up the Eiffel Tower with you but don’t expect a conversation all the way to the top, and at least reward me with a pain au chocolat break at the bottom. I need pit stops even in Paris.

In my day to day life, this means time to recharge between working and socialising with friends. It means leaving all the washing to pile up for a few days whilst I focus on sleeping more. It means going to the gym when I really should be making dinner. I need designated me time and a lot more than the average person.

When it comes to blogging, this need to be alone and reflect is actually a great thing. One of the things that helps me recharge is letting all my thoughts and feelings out in a blog post which I then share on the Internet! A little unorthodox but strangely therapeutic, you should try it. I’ve started writing everyday and I find it really helps me get things off my chest, allows me to relax without being lazy and gives me a sense of accomplishment without needing to be overactive or (heaven forbid) talk to others.

On the other hand, what comes along with blogging is the social aspect. Yes, the social aspect is mostly online; responding to comments, talking on Twitter, reading and complimenting other blogs – easy peasy. But realistically, I want to grow my audience and improve my content so there are a few instances that require, dare I say it, human interaction. I don’t have to go out and meet fellow bloggers, and the nature of my work means I can talk to them all online, but I’m scared that if I stop meeting new people I’ll somehow forget how to do it completely. I’ve written about how blogging has improved my mental health but I don’t think it’s a substitute for talking face to face with people, and improving on my social skills for when they’re required. There’s no shortage of bloggers and You Tubers who are plagued with anxiety and depression; in fact you’d be forgiven for thinking it was included in the job description. Many of us claim blogging has given us a rewarding creative outlet and a way to talk to like-minded people, but the truth is it also gives us an excuse to hide behind a laptop, to tap away on our phones and avoid going out for the most part.

My advice? Enjoy the benefits. Enjoy the alone time that comes with blogging, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone because on the other side of fear lives success. To prove I’m not a total hypocrite I’ve even booked a place on my first bout of social media training, the Social Day in Birmingham, and I’ve joined all my local blogging chats to stay in the loop about the next meet up I can attend. I’ll keep you all updated and report back, I know I’ll survive and the positive outcomes will be worth every struggle.

How writing has improved my mental health 

writing blogging mental health creative therapy
I’ve not realised until recently how important writing is to me. I’ve started doing it everyday, it’s definitely become a habit but an enjoyable and healthy one at that. I still have ongoing mental health issues and probably always will, but finding a hobby I enjoy has been really helpful for me, here’s why…

It gives me structure 

I currently work part time at my day job and use the rest of my time to do some paid freelance work as well as my own blog. The need to write everyday has given me a more structured day which is really important for keeping me on a somewhat even keel. I don’t cope with change well, so establishing a healthy routine everyday is cruical to helping me feel in control of my life. I know I can’t really blog in the evenings because I want to spend time with my husband, so this forces me to set loose working hours during the day that fit around my day job. I normally write in the afternoons when I finish work, edit pictures and share posts on social media. The next morning I will do a final read through of that day’s post or project and publish it or send it off via email. Then I spend the rest of the day replying to comments, talking on Twitter and planning my next post to write that afternoon. This helps me keep busy in between meals, stopping me from fixating on food and also stops me from taking naps at random times in the day. Since I started writing everyday I also don’t watch any TV until after dinner, so that’s a good thing!

I can organise & communicate my thoughts

As an introvert I naturally shy away from too many social engagements and this is only agravated by my anxiety around people. Holding a conversation with someone is quite taxing for me, and I find polite chit chat incredibly hard to mainain for extended periods of time. It’s like I can feel the life draining from me as I try to stay alert and focused. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, more that I just can’t find the confidence to say it. With writing I can grab a pen and my journal and just take note of whatever I’m thinking at that moment, without fear of having it come out wrong, offend someone or be made fun of for it. I can get my feelings out of my head and onto paper where I can read them again, analyse what’s going on and then form it into a blog post if I think it’s of any interest. Although this might seem completely anti-social, for me it’s like having a practise conservation with myself before releasing it to the world for comment. The blogging community has led me to use Twitter a lot more which is a great way for me to meet like minded people, especially as I’ve just moved to a new city where I don’t know many people. Once my blog post goes live I can share it, talk to other people about it online and read other posts on similar topics.

It’s a creative outlet 

I have always been mildly creative in my life. I say mildly because I don’t ever recall feeling compelled to draw. I just did it because I was bored. I wasn’t obsessed with writing music but I did it now and again, and went through phases of being in a band and playing a few instruments. I didn’t wake up and write poems everyday but I really enjoyed penning creative stories when the teacher asked for them. I studied Music for three years at university and after realising it wasn’t for me I just naturally stopped being creative.

The problem with depression and anxiety is that often you are bombarded with people asking “How do you feel?” and “What are you thinking? The truth is that sometimes it’s impossible to describe. It’s a sense of being that’s so overwhelming it’s hard I even spend time delving in for a closer look. It’s too much. Then once in a while I’ll hear a lyric or even just a melody, maybe one single note played on the piano that effortlessly sums up every thought in my head and every fibre of my being. I personally feel a great benefit from having a creative outlet, not just in the form of writing but in coming up with my blog images, layout and even my Instagram. There is nothing groundbreaking about my content. But the feeling of creating something that only exists because I chose to make it, is a wonderful feeling and a form of expression that should be celebrated.

Have you found a hobby that helps improve your mental health?

Running for the hell of it

THE NEW YOU

My number has arrived. 7492 to be precise. I am near the bottom of a long list of women who are running a race on Sunday June 5th in Glasgow and I’ll be the first to say I’m not a natural runner. I’ve trained for one 10k and one half marathon in my life so this will be the third official race that I have taken part in, and in those years I’ve struggled painfully with every sweaty inch, foot and mile I have covered in my cheap running gear and worn-out gutties. But when those glistening, svelte athletes protest that ‘running is all in the mind’ I actually agree with them. I have never had an easy mile without mentally having to convince myself that it was the case.

In the beginning I repeated phrases in my head such as This is so hard!, Why am I doing this? and Is it over yet?. Over time I realised I had to retrain my brain into say other more helpful phrases. Some people like to visualise themselves crossing the finish line, or grasping onto their gold medal. I have uttered a variety of sentences which were never pre-empted, but merely stumbled upon through hours and hours of having conversations with myself whilst out putting one foot in front of the other. The most important thing for me to remember currently is that I am choosing to run. I am not being forced to run to lose weight or hit a specific time. I am choosing to run because I enjoy the process (in small amounts), and because I can. I am blessed with the ability to run so why shouldn’t I just for the hell of it? I’m not running for speed.

In fact, for the first time I am moving at a pace which suits me and is honestly bang in my comfort zone. I’m not pushing myself to my limits. I’m not out to win prizes or impress anyone. I’m running for enjoyment goddammit and I want to be able to relax, breathe and take in the fucking scenery for once.

It’s not going to get any worse than this. That’s my current mantra. If you’re a runner maybe you’ll understand, that once you’ve got the first mile under your belt you’ve warmed up, set your own pace and if you hold it steady there it’s probably not going to get any worse.Unless you shit yourself of course.