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Hobbies to boost your mental health


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April is Stress Awareness Month and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels it’s particularly needed this year. This lockdown has been a bag of baloney. Although I try to be an advocate for getting up and out I’ve found myself flitting between my desk and my bed, working, gaming, sleeping and scrolling Insta. This a perilous route to fall down and if I spend more time staring at a screen I’ll end up like this:

Hobbies have long been thought to boost one’s mental health. To prevent me turning into the guy from the GIF, I’ve tried woodwork, metalwork, knifemaking, sewing, Warhammer, coding, electronics, cycling, automotive restoration, cooking, jewellery making, fishing, Crossfit, gardening - there’s a few… (It’s terrifying coming to terms with my addiction and short attention span).

Hobbies have been proven to kickstart dopamine production, and social prescribing, where someone who suffers from mild depression may be treated by being encouraged to take up a non-medical intervention. It’s an effective way to get out and about, and also to make friends – a benefit to us first year students who have had to do deal with the majority of our time at Suffolk being in lockdown. I’m sure if I saw some people on my course in the street, I wouldn’t recognise them.
If you are not yet convinced of the benefits of having a hobby, The Independent published  a great article on the benefits of hobbies, read more here.

When you try and think about what hobby to do, it can be quite intimidating trying to pick one and then get started.

"Find three hobbies you love: One to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative."

I always scoff at the one to make money, because I like to completely disassociate it from work and keep it fun. A definition of a hobby is an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation or source of income. I think it’s important that this first one comes organically, and that the money comes as a by-product.

  • Have you learnt Spanish and can you now teach it?
  • Do you enjoy maths? Could you tutor kids or fellow students?
  • Do you enjoy the idea of the stock market? Want to challenge yourself and turn £10 into £1000?
  • Have you always been an avid doodler and want to start commissioning illustrations?

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Yorkshire Dales rocks at the top of a hill

2,400ft up in the Yorkshire Dales

Keeping in shape is something I’ve always found pretty dread, I don’t particularly enjoy exercising for the sake of exercise. However, I’ve found that if you point me to top of a hill or mountain, I am off. You could try:
  • Running
  • Bouldering  (In Ipswich - here)
  • Crossfit – kind of like the gym but not boring, structured classes and a very supportive community (In Ipswich - here)
  • Football (In Ipswich - here)
  • Supporting the National Trust and exploring the Suffolk coastline (See more here)
  • Dancing – the University has a great Dance Society and YouTube has loads of resources if you wanna dance with no one watching!
  • Being creative – hallelujah. It’s my favourite and probably my biggest money sink.
  • Warhammer – I’m yet to find something more relaxing than miniature painting with Parks and Rec on in the background (A great local, independent store here)
  • Sewing – I’m 6ft6 so find it easier and cheaper to make my own pyjama bottoms (See an Ipswich store here)  
  • Electronics and coding – Ipswich Makerspace offer some great resources for those who are wanting to compound their computing knowledge (Ipswich Makerspace here and The Pi Hut here)
  • Writing and drawing – Short stories, poetry, illustrations, landscapes, no specialist equipment needed – just pencil and paper!
  • Music – if you look around you can get a cheap instrument for £20-30, as long as your flat mates don’t throw a brick through your window it’s a great skill to have. (Free guitar, piano and theory resources. Also, an Ipswich Music Shop)

The most important thing is to get stuck in! You can try almost anything with little to no upfront cost and in the age of the internet, especially with the help of Reddit and YouTube, you can teach yourself almost anything.

Max Rennie, Student Blogger

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