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How hobbies can lead to your flourishing and mental health

Having a hobby is a great way to reduce stress, whether it be doing something outdoors, indoors, listening to music, or doing something creative. The point is you are doing something you enjoy, which brings with it a sense of purpose and joy.

In DBT therapy, we practice a therapeutic technique of doing the opposite action. The point of the opposite action is to put your energy into something that makes you feel better when your emotions wreak havoc on your well-being. The intent is not to get rid of your emotions because they play an essential role in our psychological well-being. The point is to reduce their intensity.

When people suffer from depression, they often feel unmotivated. It stems from feelings of sadness and a loss of interest that are characteristic of depression. This is where a good hobby would help. It provides you with a ready choice in choosing an opposite action. It is one reason I help my clients find a hobby of their interest and encourage them to participate in regularly.

Hobbies help us open ourselves to reality, a school in receptiveness to life. Hobbies nourish our sense of wonder and get us out and beyond self. Joseph Piper said of leisure, which can equally be applied to hobbies, that, when ''we enter into these things we naturally enjoy we find opportunities to live in the moment, enriched by our reflective participation in some small portion of reality, and therefore learning to open ourselves to the whole.'' This opening up can lead to the enrichment and transformation in other states of our lives, and when we learn to live parts of our lives with joy, this joy permeates other aspects of our lives as well.

I like to garden, and gardening as most other hobbies takes a bit of creativity. Creativity is a proven stress buster. Creativity also helps with depression and anxiety. It is one reason why some therapists utilize music and art in their therapy sessions. We all desire and appreciate beauty, hence why we admire a sunset. We naturally desire and know when we have laid eyes on something beautiful, and it alone is an excellent stress reliever. Having and taking part in creating something beautiful is all the better. There is no greater joy than when a mother holds her newborn for the first time.

Many hobbies take a good deal of awareness. A gardener must be aware of their plants' health and any possible insect or parasite that can do harm. A birder needs to know where and when to look for birds and be aware of their own presence not to scare them off.

I am a licensed N.C. falconer, and birds of prey are highly perceptive. To teach the hawk to stop baiting (an attempt to fly from the fist when secured), keep calm, and become trusting of me, I must first acquire those qualities in myself. I cannot merely appear to have those traits. I have to be aware of and let go of any mask. Birds of prey give immediate feedback on every action made and every emotion held. And so falconry as many other hobbies help one become self-aware and aware of the present moment.

We learn perseverance and resilience. When our plants, fruit, and flower, after making it through winter and surviving late frost, or when we water back to health after neglect, show perseverance and resilience. This resilience came with your aid giving you a sense of accomplishment and purpose. In falconry, you start by gaining the bird's trust, and eventually, through many man-hours, have them flying to you and hunting with you. There is a sense of perseverance and resilience in all hobbies that can give you a needed confidence boost.

It is not hard to find a hobby. Try new things until you discover something you love. I have already listed a few here. Some others may be collecting things, running/running marathons, golf, hiking, hunting, crochet, reading, cooking. Many hobbies have local clubs you could join and meet periodically with people of the same interest. Having an outlet that provides a healthy way to express your feelings can play an important role in getting to feel better and seeing you through a slump.

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