Do you have days where you just want to curl up under the covers and Netflix, or scroll through your social media newsfeeds – and be left totally alone? In our increasingly busy and stressful lives, such relaxing time for ourselves may feel hard to come by. While some R&R on the couch is great, it can be beneficial to replace some of this time on activities that keep our minds stimulated, our energy positive and our lives meaningful. Too much screen-time with TV and social media can leave us feeling socially isolated and depressed, especially if we do not live up to the often-unreal standards set by the media.
You can refresh yourself in a meaningful and healthy way by pursuing your hobbies, volunteering for causes you feel strongly about or spending time with your loved ones. This month, we want to focus on the benefits of these activities over our usual hours on the couch.
Hobbies: These aren’t just pastimes that help you, quite literally, pass time. In fact, hobbies can be the food for your soul. Research shows that people who actively engage in their hobbies are more productive and creative at work. Hobbies can also help you to learn new things and expand your cognitive abilities. Take cooking as a hobby for example: it gives you the opportunity to try new things each time, and experiment with the status quo. Certain hobbies can also connect you with like-minded people, giving you a shot at friendships built on compatibility. If you truly enjoy your hobbies, they can serve to rejuvenate and refresh you and help you to disconnect from your everyday worries.
Social connections: Being around people is just as important for your health as eating well and exercising. However, Americans today say that they have far fewer social connections that they did three or four decades ago, with one study showing that one in four people may have no one they call a close friend! Social connections improve both physical health and psychological well-being, with research showing that strong social networks are associated with having increased life expectancy. People that are more connected to others are have higher self-esteem and a more positive, trusting and cooperative personality. On the flipside, people with low social connection are generally found to have lower health and a higher likelihood towards depression, anxiety and antisocial behavior, driving them towards further isolation. This isn’t to say that you always have to be around people, but it definitely does help to see friends and family on a regular basis to maintain social connectedness.
Volunteering: For it is in giving that we receive. Volunteering is not just beneficial to those that are being served, but it brings with it a sense of happiness and satisfaction to the volunteer. In fact, research has shown that those who volunteer are happier and healthier than non-volunteers. Volunteering is also an opportunity to connect with other volunteers or the recipients, while doing good. Moreover, volunteering can offer a sense of purpose and meaning in one’s life, which could be a refreshing change for if you find your everyday life mundane or monotonous. If you are currently not volunteering, there are many online resources that can help you connect with a cause that you feel strongly about.
So, as summer begins in full swing this month, make a mental note to get yourself out there, whether it’s to spend time with new or old friends, do something for fun or lend someone a hand!