Our bodies weren’t designed to be in a constant state of stress. To put it simply, you can’t work all the time and not feel the negative effects. The solution? Create a rhythm of rest and work.
High achievers find this hard to believe. When you are driven by the need to achieve, it can be difficult to make time for something that doesn’t tangibly move you closer to your goals. I fell into this trap for years. But the facts are there. Practicing self-care—and, in particular, maintaining a hobby—provides your brain the opportunity to focus on something else, freeing up and recharging your mental energy. When you invest time on something you enjoy outside of work, you gain a greater level of clarity, creativity, and various health benefits—and ultimately improve the quality of your work.
Here are five ideas for hobbies you could engage in and the science behind the benefits they provide:
- Exercise. Exercise yields numerous physical health benefits. It also improves brain function. A study out of Harvard showed physical activity can lead to enhanced creativity, quicker learning, sharper memory, and improved concentration. Studies also show that exercise increases overall job satisfaction and productivity.
- Outdoor recreation, such fishing or hiking. Getting outdoors is a great way to counterbalance the stress you experience at work. Research shows that just 20–30 minutes outside a day significantly reduces cortisol and stress levels.
- Cooking and gardening. Developing skills with these types of hobbies can boost your self-esteem and increase your happiness. Not only that, but gardening can lower your risk of stroke, osteoporosis, and dementia.
- Creative activities, such as photography, painting, or music. Artistic hobbies improve your overall health and well-being. In fact, individuals who play an instrument experience better connectivity between the left and right sides of their brains, improving cognitive function.
- Reading. Many people love curling up with a good book. Not only is it enjoyable, but researchers out of Sussex University found that reading can lower stress by as much as 68 percent.
I challenge you to think of something outside of your work that you love. Something that inspires you and ignites your passion. Investing time into a hobby has not only enriched my life personally, but I have seen it raise my creativity and productivity at work as well. It can do the same for you. What are you waiting for?