5 Hobbies for Cognitive Function and Stress Release
5 Hobbies for Cognitive Function and Stress Release
Hobbies are not just a way to fill your free time, they are creative outlets that keep your brain engaged and, in some cases, can even improve cognitive function. When was the last time that you allowed yourself the time to learn something new? Not as a part of your job, but to make yourself feel good. If you can’t remember, then it might be time to take up a hobby.
Staying healthy isn’t just about physical fitness. It is also important that we continue to exercise our minds by engaging in activities that challenge us. Research conducted by Cell Journal suggests that the adult brain may be able to add around 700 new neurons to the hippocampus per day.
This essentially means that when we learn new things and engage in stimulating activities, our brains may continue to create new neural pathways in response.
There are lots of ways that we can stimulate our minds and stay busy during challenging times. Here we share a few of our favourite hobbies for cognitive function, that may help keep us engaged and our minds active and well.
Playing music for stress relief
Learning to play a musical instrument is good for the brain for many reasons. Firstly, music relieves stress. Learning an instrument can help refocus your energy into something very enjoyable. Not to mention, the music itself helps to calm us, even perhaps without us knowing. The act of listening to (or playing) upbeat music can elevate your mood and create a feeling of positivity whilst softer, more soothing music can help to relax the muscles.
In addition, learning a new musical instrument can help to improve memory. Often, people can struggle with memory loss and forgetfulness in later life; learning a new musical instrument is proven to increase cognitive function and help memory. The New England Journal of Medicine conducted a five-year study on 469 seniors and found that among other leisure activities, playing musical instruments was associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Playing music stimulates both sides of the brain and interestingly, studies on the human brain have shown that there are significant differences in brain structure between musicians and non-musicians of the same age. The Corpus Callosum, the nerve fibres connecting both sides of the brain, is a great deal larger in those who play a musical instrument.
Lastly, learning to play a musical instrument improves patience and time management skills. Learning a new instrument is far from easy and as a result, it requires a great deal of persistence. It gives a sense of achievement and whilst this may not seem important, allowing ourselves victory in our own achievement promotes positivity and increases the motivation that we need to continue pursuing a new endeavour.
Learning a language to delay dementia
Many people associate learning a new language with an activity that they should have pursued as a child. However, it is never too late to start learning a new language. With online classes and apps such as Duolingo, you can start picking up the foundations of a new language even from your own home. So, you shouldn’t feel that you have missed the boat simply because you are no longer in school. There are even positive cognitive outcomes in learning a language later on in life. In fact, learning a second language has been thought to slow brain ageing and the act may even slow the chances of dementia. Learning a second language can develop new areas of the brain and strengthen the ability to focus.
Bilinguals have also been associated with an improved ability to multitask. It seems that the ability to switch between languages also translates to the ability to switch between tasks in day to day life. Arnaud from Arnauds Language Kitchen runs online language classes and has developed a useful blog that is in both English and French.
Knitting or Crocheting to slow cognitive decline
The best way to keep your brain working at its best is to regularly use it and challenge it. Whilst knitting may seem like a simple task, it is far from it. Knitting and/or crocheting improves hand-eye coordination and can slow cognitive decline. Researchers have found that activities such as knitting can help to keep the mind sharp and reduce the risk of dementia. Furthermore, not only are these great social activities, as a result of their repetitive motions, they have lots of the same benefits as meditation.
Meditative Colouring for mindfulness
If you think that you left colouring in your childhood, it may be time to think again. Adult meditative colouring books have grown in popularity over the last few years with some even reaching the bestsellers list. Meditative colouring has lots of health benefits and is a great method for relieving stress and improving focus. Books such as The Mindfulness Colouring Book: Anti-stress Art Therapy for Busy People, ‘prompt you to meditate on your artwork as you mindfully and creatively fill these pages with colour.’
Colouring is also known to improve fine motor skills and vision as it requires the two hemispheres of the brain to communicate. The act of colouring requires both creativity and logic which trains your brain to use these fine motor skills. When spending free time using electronics rather than colouring or engaging in other forms of cognitive activity we are less likely to be developing our fine motor skills.
When you garden, your plants are not the only ones that benefit. Gardening is an excellent stress reliever, known to improve mood and benefit mental health. According to Thrive, ‘Out of 317 people who took part in table-top gardening sessions run by Thrive across Berkshire, Hampshire and South Oxfordshire, 80 per cent reported better mental health as a result, with 93 per cent saying they experienced improved confidence and motivation.’
Additionally, there are huge benefits of gardening for cognitive function. According to this 2019 study, those who performed 20 minutes of low to moderate intensity gardening exhibited significantly increased levels of the brain nerve growth.
If you enjoyed this blog on ‘5 Hobbies for Cognitive Function and Stress Release’ then enjoy our other journal posts where we share more tips on mind and body wellness. Stay safe and we look forward to welcoming you back to Combe Grove soon.