A Hobby Helps Your Recovery and Mental Health

June 7, 2024

A Hobby Helps Your Recovery and Mental Health

Do you find yourself feeling guilty when you are not doing something that could be called “productive”?

Maybe you work all of the time—through your lunch hour, into the evening, and all weekend long. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by household chores—always doing laundry or dishes or yard work. Maybe you feel obligated to a range of organizations—your kid’s school, your church, or a non-profit.

You might find yourself filling every available moment with some important activity. Or you might find yourself “stealing” a little time but using it to doomscroll or fall down a social media rabbit hole or stare vacantly at the television.

We would suggest that everyone—and especially those in recovery from a substance use disorder, in treatment for a mental health disorder, or both—would benefit from rethinking what is considered “productive.” Indeed, we would argue that the kinds of activities we sometimes think of as time wasters are actually the key to improved overall well-being. 

And really, what could be more productive than that?

Let’s talk about hobbies.

Ask Yourself: What Do You Like to Do?

When someone asks you what you like to do in your spare time, what do you say? Maybe you just sigh and say that you don’t actually have any spare time. Maybe you make a joke: In my spare time? Sleep. And really, I should do less of that! (No, you shouldn’t.)

But what if we reframed the question: What do you like to do?

Take your time—and forget about the idea of “spare” time. What do you like to do?

Have you thought of something? Maybe something came to mind immediately. But maybe nothing came to mind at all. When we have packed our lives with responsibilities, it can be easy to forget what we actually like to do.

But even if you can’t think of something right away, there is good news when it comes to hobbies. As long as an activity is engaging and provides an opportunity to clear your mind, it supports your recovery and your mental health. So, you can give any number of things a try until you settle on the activity (or activities) that you most enjoy.

Fishing? Bowling? Origami? Collecting baseball cards? Gardening? Model trains? Jigsaw puzzles? Reading mystery novels? Crocheting? Visiting museums?

Those are 10 quick ideas—and we could keep going without breaking a sweat. Finding the right activity for you might take some trial and error, but we are confident you can find the thing that provides a real sense of relaxation.

Forget About ‘Making Time.’ Schedule Time Instead.

Sometimes folks get stuck on the idea that they need to “make time” for a hobby—and then decide that they simply cannot do it. We would suggest a shift in thinking. Let’s stop thinking about “spare time” and “making time” and “wasting time.” Instead, let’s start thinking about our hobbies the same way we think about all of our other activities.

Commit to scheduling time for your hobbies.

As a rule, you do the things that appear in your planner, right? You go to the meeting, you hit the deadline, you pick up the kid from practice. That is what your planner is for, after all—to make sure you don’t miss the important things you need to do.

So it is only logical that you would put time to enjoy your hobby into your calendar. You can start small—maybe a half an hour a couple of times a week, for example. As you see the benefits of building in some relaxation—better physical and mental health, for starters, and often a boost in productivity when you are working—you may well find yourself building in more time to pursue the things you enjoy.

Harvard on Hobbies

Maybe you are feeling skeptical about all of this. Fair enough. Let’s turn to the Harvard Health Letter’s review of a study published by Nature Medicine

That study “suggests that having a hobby is good for your health, mood, and more.” Here is the key takeaway:

Compared with people who didn’t have hobbies, those who did reported better health, more happiness, fewer symptoms of depression, and higher life satisfaction. The findings were similar across all countries. The study is observational and doesn’t prove that hobbies caused people to be healthy and happy. But the researchers say hobbies — such as arts and crafts, games, gardening, volunteering, or participating in clubs — involve creativity, sensory engagement, self-expression, relaxation, and cognitive stimulation, which are linked to good mental health and well-being. Plus, taking part in hobby groups keeps you socially connected, which helps reduce loneliness and isolation.

All of those benefits of hobbies provide support for your ongoing recovery from a substance use disorder.

We Are Ready to Get to Work

At The Farley Center—located in Williamsburg, Virginia—we offer personalized treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, we can help with our combination of evidence-based practices, expertise, experience, and empathy. We can help you reclaim your sobriety—and your life.