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Add a Little Spice to Your Life with a Fun New Hobby or Skill

Want to boost your brain a little bit? Tired of the same old routine? Searching for healthier ways to occupy free time while you’re in addiction recovery? Why not try a new hobby—or return to a hobby you loved to do years ago—or learn a new skill?

No excuses.

As we get older, we tend to shy away from trying new things. In fact, some experts say that adults in their 50s and 60s try a new activity about once every nine years. Yet people of all ages overwhelmingly report feeling excited, confident, and proud when they try something new. According to one UK study, 80 percent of respondents said they felt better when they explored a new hobby or learned something new.

Pursuing new hobbies and learning new skills improve your health and well-being, especially if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or chronic pain. Researchers are also studying how the activities relieve stress, increase happiness, enhance self-esteem and self-confidence, improve job performance, and lessen aging’s effect on the brain. In fact, a 2011 study on the brain benefits of cognitive activities—like reading, playing games, crafting, solving crossword puzzles, and learning a new language, for example—concluded that you can potentially reduce the likelihood of developing mild cognitive impairment between 30 and 50 percent.

Another clinical trial suggested that people who undergo training retain improved reasoning skills and brain processing speed for up to 10 years after the training’s conclusion. Since over 35 million people currently live with dementia today—and that number is expected to triple by 2050—why not get your brain working now by revisiting an old favorite hobby or trying something new?

Thinking outside the hobby & toolbox. Whether you’re raising a family, building a career, or nestling into retirement, and regardless of your mental or physical condition, there are hobbies and skills to suit any interest and ability.

If you’re more of the solo type...

Plant a garden. Nature’s a great balm for people with depression and anxiety. Gardening improves endurance and strength, and if you cultivate vegetables and fruits, you’ll enrich your cooking, too.

Try needlework, like crochet, knitting, or embroidery. These repetitive activities encourage a zen-like, meditative state that lowers heart rates, blood pressure, and stress levels.

Learn a musical instrument. Engaging actively with music preserves brain function, strengthens your lungs, improves concentration, refines motor skills, and so much more.

Try a new language. You’ll boost your brain power, improve your memory and problem-solving skills, build self-confidence, and improve executive functions.

If you like sharing experiences...

Take dance lessons. The Treehouse explains, “One of the best benefits of dancing is that you can do it in the privacy of your own home (provided you have the space) or in a classroom setting, which can help you socialize. It’s also a great way to get in shape and learn about your own body’s abilities and limits in a healthy way.”

Learn to program and code. If you’re still in the workforce, coding and programming careers have strong earning potential. The demand for coding-related jobs is projected to increase up to 24 percent by 2026. Coding teaches problem solving, and the whole family can do it together.

Hit the golf course. Even if you’re renting a cart, you’ll still log plenty of steps on your Fitbit. This activity also helps maintain hand-eye coordination, improve flexibility and range of motion, and provide mental stimulation and companionship.

Volunteer. Campaign for a local candidate. Help out in the children’s section of the library. Walk dogs and comfort cats at the local animal shelter. Work in your local soup kitchen or thrift shop. You’ll stay engaged in the community, improve your feelings of self-worth, and meet new people.

Spice up your life. Even if you’ve only got a few minutes each day, make time to do your hobby or learn that new skill. You’ll enter a “flow state” that restores your energy and—because it’s a heightened state of concentration—raise those feel-good neurotransmitters. You’ll also stimulate the parts of your brain that foster creative and positive thinking—a guilt-free win!

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