Drink and draw experience

The mental health benefits of experiences


Last updated on Monday 20 May 2024


In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it's easy to get caught up in the routine and forget to prioritize our mental wellbeing.

However, amidst the chaos, there lies a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and monotony: events and experiences.

From crafty workshops and unique experiences to musical events and community gatherings, these moments offer more than just entertainment and things to do —they have the potential to impact our mental health in positive ways.  (We may be a little biased, but the data doesn’t lie!) 

Mental health benefits of hobbies and interests

There is tonnes of research to show that learning new skills and having different hobbies or interests can improve your mental wellbeing.

A 2023 meta-analysis reviewed the data of more than 93,000 older adults and found that respondents with hobbies—loosely defined as activities done for pleasure during leisure time—self-reported higher health, happiness, and life satisfaction. On the other hand, people who experienced signs of depression were less likely to be engaged in hobbies.

Let’s break down the benefits a little more!

 

How hobbies benefit mental health

They reduce stress

Participating in activities during leisure or spare time has been shown to reduce stress levels. For instance, one study showed approximately 75% of participants’ cortisol levels (one of the most widely studied hormonal markers of stress) were lowered after making art. Don’t consider yourself to be an artistic person? That’s okay! This study also showed that prior experience wasn’t needed to reduce stress.

 

They enhance wellbeing

A study in New Zealand found that engaging in creative activities can lead to an improved sense of wellbeing that may have long lasting effects. Participants felt a higher positive effect or mood and a sense of flourishing after days where they engaged in a creative activity.

Crafting experiences and activities can often be viewed as mindful activities. When we talk about mindfulness, generally peoples’ brains will go into “being mode” which is when you get absorbed in an experience, and enjoying an experience rather than just thinking about experience and what the outcome might be. This can help you shift from a constant state of “doing mode” that the brain is often stuck in.

The Mindfulness in Schools Project shows the impact of mindfulness and mindful activities for mental health (whilst this is a study on school children, it’s also super relevant for us adults too) and advocates for participation in more mindful activities.

 

They improve social connection

While there are many mental health benefits related to hobbies on your own, group or ‘team’ hobbies have also been shown to provide important opportunities for social connection, friendship and support.

Research also shows that adults who regularly participate in some kind of team sport are less likely to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress.

We’ll touch on this more below!

 

They support overall improved health

Hobbies that include physical activity have been linked to many health benefits including reduced stress, reduced blood pressure, and a lower heart rate. But if you take physical activity outside, there are many additional positive benefits. Experts agree that spending as little as 10 minutes in nature can lead to improved mood, focus, and overall wellbeing.

In 2010, a team of academics from universities in Kansas, Pittsburgh and Texas discovered that hobbies and leisure pursuits were associated with myriad markers of better physical health, including lower blood pressure, body mass index and stress hormones.  

Cider box tour

How learning new skills benefits mental health

Whilst consistent hobbies can have great mental health benefits from a wellness and social interaction perspective, there are also benefits to learning new skills and trying new experiences.

Here’s just a few ways that learning a new skill or trying something different can boost your mental health:

 

Boosts brain power

New experiences can help our brains create new neural pathways, which can improve cognitive function and memory.

 

Increases creativity

New experiences can stimulate creativity and inspire innovative thinking.

 

Encourages growth and development

Trying new things can help us step out of our comfort zones and encourage personal growth and development.

 

Builds confidence

Successfully navigating new experiences can help build self-confidence and self-esteem.

 

Enhances problem-solving skills

New experiences often require problem-solving skills, which can improve our ability to think critically and make decisions. 

Lino printing

Mental health benefits of shared experiences

Believe it or not, people are by nature social creatures. Social connections are important for us to survive and function well.

When people are socially connected and have strong relationships or a strong sense of community they are more likely to be able to cope with stress, anxiety and depression.

As the Harvard Women’s Health Watch reported, “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.”

Plus, according to a recent study from Psychological Science, sharing experiences, even with complete strangers, makes us rate those experiences as more meaningful.

The Personal Social Services Research Unit from London School of Economics and Political Science also highlights how social interactions can help reduce feelings of loneliness and promote better mental wellbeing.

In addition to being good for our emotional health, shared experiences can foster empathy and are linked to good physical and cognitive health. 

So there you have it! There's tonnes of research to show that doing things, whether that be alone or with others, can be hugely beneficial for our mental and physical wellbeing.

This is what I love about Yuup. Through our selection of wonderful experiences, we bring together different people from different walks of life and allow them to take part in new and fun activities which can support their mental wellbeing and connect them with new people.

Looking for a new hobby or just something fun, or mindful, to do? Take a look and find something that brings you joy.


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