Hobbies for fun and mental health

By Shianna Gibbons

Mental health experts say a healthy balance of necessary work and leisure activities can improve mental health. Youngstown State University students can find that balance through hobbies.

Amanda Shuluga, an adjunct psychology professor, said hobbies have a positive effect on some people’s dispositions.

“There is a correlation between our behaviors and mood,” Shuluga said. “When we engage in activities that we enjoy, we tend to see an increase in our mood.”

Sawyer Stubrich, a senior majoring in nursing, has a few hobbies, including swing dancing, crocheting and reading. Stubrich said these hobbies provide mental and emotional benefits to him.

“When I’m swing dancing, I feel energized and happy,” Stubrich said. “It is a great distraction because when I’m swing dancing — that is all I’m doing — just having a good time.”

When Stubrich is crocheting, he said it’s a different feeling but still beneficial.

“Crocheting is more relaxing because you are doing something with your hands, but you have time for the people around you or multitask,” Stubrich said. “It requires some thought, but not enough to be exhausted.”

Ellie Maurice, a freshman majoring in marketing management, enjoys distance running and photography. 

“Photography is a creative outlet for me. Sometimes I have this pent-up energy, and I have to get it out,” Maurice said. “I get inspired by social media and things around me, so I grab my camera out and go.”

Maurice said photography has helped her mental health.

“It’s a good way to take up my time in a productive way,” Maurice said. “When we went into lockdown, I was struggling a bit. I was able to get a lens that could get quality pictures from far away while interacting with someone from a safe distance.”

Hobbies can reduce stress, enhance well-being, improve social connections and decrease depression and anxiety according to Mental Health Education. A study found that 75% of participants had lower stress levels after creating art. 

Eva Lamberson, a senior double majoring in philosophy and English, said they like video games, reading and playing Dungeons and Dragons with their friends.

“Dungeons and Dragons is a tabletop role-playing game,” Lamberson said. “A group of players will get together, and roleplay as different characters, and the dungeon master will take them through a story.”

Lamberson said DND is a great distraction from reality.

“There have been days when I felt terrible, but I was supposed to play DND, and I was like, ‘You got to do it for the other people,’” Lamberson said. “[DND] is a perfect escape but allows you to transport yourself to another world for a while, and that’s pretty nice.”

Mental Health Education said time is a big barrier for hobbies but suggests different ways to make time for the things we enjoy. Less mindless scrolling on social media and taking microbreaks during our workday are some of their suggestions.

Shuluga said hobbies are meant to be enjoyable and not add stress.

“If I’m trying to pick up 15 new hobbies, I’m going to lose my mind,” Shuluga said. “We should be mindful of not overwhelming ourselves because just as quickly as we are trying to do something beneficial for ourselves, it can become a detriment.”