2014-09-01 / Health

Hobby for better health

By Lindsey Romain CTW Features

Biking along the beach.Working on a puzzle with the family. Knitting on the train. Reading on the couch. These seemingly mundane activities aren’t just time-fillers — they can be lifesavers.

Studies show that hobbies aren’t just great for temporary anxiety relief; they have long-lasting and preventative results. According to the Journal of New England Medicine, people who play puzzle games and read have less memory loss when they get older. Brain stimulation and stress relief also can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, especially in women. “A really good hobby totally absorbs us,” says Gail McMeekin, a career consultant who specializes in stress relief and author of“The Power of Positive Choices:Adding and Subtracting Your Way to a Great Life.”(Conari Press, 2001) “It also gives us something to look forward to and focus on.”

That break from everyday woes is perfect for workaholics who juggle careers and family life. Cultivating a hobby makes that taxing load a little easier, as it carves out time for both a mental break and focuses on an activity the person loves.

“Recreation is really re-creation and gives us rest and a fresh perspective,” says McMeekin, who notes that lots of creative ideas emerge when people take a break and listen to their intuition.

Danielle DiPirro, blogger at PositivelyPresent.com and author of“Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively Present” (lulu.com, 2013) made her blogging hobby a career a few years ago, and in the meantime found a hobby she never expected to get into: graphic design.

“Having a hobby, especially a creative one, has positively impacted not only my work life, but my personal life as well,” DiPirro says.

The trick, she says, is to find out where you’re spending time doing things that aren’t fulfilling to you — like mindlessly watchingTV or saying yes to invitations you’d rather decline — and taking that time to do something you love instead.

Many people also develop fitness-related hobbies, which apart from just being spiritually fulfilling are beneficial to physical health as well.A study published inApril in the JAMA Internal Medicine found that a combination of light exercise and mental stimulation keep seniors mentally sharp.That exercise component can come from little things — like jogging while catching up on podcasts, walking to the library for books or biking to art class — and can, in the process, relax joints, improve muscle control and dexterity and burn calories.

McMeekin also suggests developing a hobby that promotes socialization with friends and peers, as connections start dwindling when responsibility calls.

At the very least, it’s a good way to gossip with a golf buddy while walking the course and forgetting a long day at work.

© CTW Features

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