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If there’s one thing we can all agree on at the moment, it’s that the past year with COVID-19 has been stressful. The American Psychological Association warns that we are now facing a national mental health crisis with negative health and social consequences that will be felt for many years to come (via APA).

So, it’s not really surprising that many retailers have had a hard time keeping outdoor recreation gear in stock. Many of us have rediscovered our love of the outdoors at a time when indoor recreation has been limited. As it turns out, outdoor hobbies are good for our mental health. Actually, practically any hobby that we really enjoy, from stamp collecting to knitting to gardening, will reduce stress and offer health benefits.

One study by the Society of Behavioral Medicine followed 115 adults as they went about their daily activities. After three days, those who had spent time in leisure activities reported 34% less stress, tramadol with paracetamol and ibuprofen and 18% less sadness than those who didn’t. Matthew Zawadzki, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, and lead study author, told NPR, “If we start thinking about that beneficial carryover effect day after day, year after year, it starts to make sense how leisure can help improve health in the long term. Stress causes a build-up of higher heart rate, blood pressure, and hormone levels, so the more we can prevent this overworked state, the less of a load it builds up.”

Any enjoyable exercise can lower stress

So, stop saying you don’t have time for a hobby, and instead consider it an investment in your health! Here are some suggestions:

Tend a garden. As Yale E360 explains, studies have shown that spending time in nature can prove therapeutic. Gardening is a sensory-immersive experience that helps us focus more fully on the present moment. As acupuncturist and herbalist Michelle Polk told Bustle, “Gardening is grounding, brings you closer to the earth, and allows you to heal yourself by tending to other living things. Not to mention it’s cheap and provides you with food, herbs, and beautiful flowers.”

Journaling, meanwhile, can help us sort through thoughts and emotions in a healthy way, while listening to music, baking, drawing, coloring, or painting can all serve as effective stress-reducing art therapies. And any form of enjoyable physical movement, like dancing, yoga, or even just walking, can help. All in all, it doesn’t matter so much which hobby you choose, so long as you have one to enjoy and make it a part of your self-care (via Verywell Mind).

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