How hobbies may help you adapt

How hobbies and games may benefit the mind and body
Pair of hands working on a jigsaw puzzle

As the world grapples with the impact of COVID-19, we’re all adapting to a different way of life. To help weather this transition, you might explore hobbies and activities you once abandoned, or a new one that’s long interested you. Think painting, participating in an online book club, cookie decorating, or gardening, among others. Puzzles and video and app-based games can also challenge your brain and help keep it sharp.

Hobbies and games are more than a welcome distraction from boredom. They may lower our stress levels and improve our mood, and give us a sense of mastery, accomplishment, and control. Some even get you exercising.

Hobbies and games may be more than just fun

Designating a few hours a day or week to your hobby may benefit you in many ways.

By scheduling regular time for yoga, photography, or knitting, for example, you’re creating a routine, which is especially helpful during times like these when our days can become monotonous and repetitive. Having a routine structures your day and may reduce the amount of uncertainty and stress you may feel.

Participating in hobbies also gives you a break from spending too much time on social media, which, when used excessively, research shows may result in lowered self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Rather than surfing through your feeds at the end of the day, consider finishing a puzzle or a fun project. Doing so might provide a sense of accomplishment which, in turn, may boost your self-esteem and mood.

Gaming might also be good for your physical health. By regularly playing fitness-focused video games against family members or friends, or using a virtual personal training game solo, you may find yourself well on your way to getting the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (which is recommended for people who have cleared this with their doctor).

How older adults may benefit from hobbies

Older adults may continue to experience feelings of isolation and anxiety during the pandemic despite the fact that parks, gyms, restaurants, and recreation centers are beginning to open. Many might have a higher risk of severe illness if infected and could still feel unsafe in public gatherings. Having a fulfilling hobby may help counteract the difficult emotions that may arise when far from friends and family, while also engaging the brain.

Has that piano been collecting dust over the years? It may be a good idea to pull out some sheet music and practice your skills. That’s because playing a musical instrument has been considered to play a potential role in protecting against dementia and cognitive impairment as we age.

Though often thought of as a young person’s activity, games – both the old-fashioned kind like checkers and those played on a device or computer – may be especially useful to older adults. Web-based games played against real-life opponents may foster a sense of connection for seniors who are home alone. Graphic-rich, 3-D video games in particular have been shown to delay some memory loss and concentration lapses.

Hobbies can be shared as a family

If you’re spending your evenings watching TV in one room while your kids are on their devices in another, you might consider adopting a hobby as a family. Doing so might help take your mind off of the day’s stressors and create lasting bonds in a fun way.

There are plenty of hobbies families can enjoy together. They run the gamut from magic tricks and karaoke to jewelry-making and baking. If it’s warm enough to safely go outside, you may consider playing tag, throwing a frisbee, or going rollerblading. Having a hobby means more than passing time while at home. Research shows that parents who play with their kids enjoy greater family bonding and happiness.

If you’re a parent, you may be used to pulling your kids away from their video games. Turns out, gaming as a family activity may be a good thing. Depending on the game you choose to play together, your kids might improve their math and spelling skills, learn geography, think strategically, and even get some exercise. Check with your doctor before starting any new activity to ensure it’s safe for you.

Despite the inconsistency of our circumstances week to week, you might want to take this opportunity to explore new hobbies and games. Keeping the mind engaged and bonding with loved ones may ease stress, improve your mood, and help you maintain a healthy outlook – all helpful things as we navigate our new, unfamiliar terrain.

Learn about ways you can stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic