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What are the best hobbies to lift your mood in the winter?

7 minute read

Stay creative and mentally active during the darker months with a hobby.

A great way to stave off low mood and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), hobbies can do way more for you than just stop you getting bored. But what are the best hobbies to do in winter, when it’s cold and dark outside?!

The days are getting chillier, and the nights are getting longer. Evenings that only last month were spent on the beach or strolling through the park are now more likely to be spent cozied up at home. But being sat cozied up can get dull quickly without something fresh to focus on.

Fancy taking up a new hobby? Or revisiting something you used to love? Here’s how you can entertain yourself, and keep the winter blues at bay.

How do the shorter days affect our brains?

Many of us suffer from lower mood in the winter months. Shorter days, less exposure to light. We go to work in the dark, and we come home in the dark. It often feels like we’ve missed the entire day, and that can be draining on the mind.

It is theorised that a lack of sunlight impacts the brain’s hypothalamus, making it work less effectively. This is the part of the brain responsible for the production of serotonin, which regulates mood, appetite, and sleep, as well as production of other hormones.

The dip in production of these hormones can increase feelings of depression and low mood. Of course, we can’t skip work to get at the daylight, but we can use free time in the evening to boost our mood another way.

Hobbies and mental health

Focusing on a new hobby, or an old activity we used to love, is a great thing to do during colder months.

Psychologist and life expert, Bayu Prihandito, explains how “…hobbies are not just pastimes but essential tools that address our emotional, cognitive, and psychological needs. [They] give us a sense of purpose and accomplishment. When we fully immerse ourselves in an activity we are passionate about, it helps us feel good about ourselves and strengthens our resilience.”

Prihandito’s description demonstrates how vital a worthwhile hobby can be, when we’re entering this period where mood can be a lot more fragile. Giving yourself a sense of purpose, that’s more than just career or work goals, can help to fight back against the depression of winter.

Selecting a hobby

It can seem overwhelming, trying to pick a hobby. Maybe there’s something you started a while back that’s worth revisiting? Or there’s a hobby you loved as a teenager that you lost time for in adulthood you could revisit?

Need motivation?
If you struggle to stay motivated, pick a hobby which gives you a finished product. Usually crafts like embroidery, knitting, or painting can feel too far out of your skills set. However, there are plenty of kits you can find with steps and templates to follow, like painting by numbers.

Setting the goal of bringing a finished product to life can be a great motivator to stick at the hobby and get it done. Great positive affirmation!

Learn something new
You might enjoy the satisfaction of expanding your mind. Prihandito talks of the improvement a hobby can have on your cognitive function: “Hobbies stimulate our mental faculties, improving cognitive flexibility and problem-solving skills.”

Dedicate yourself to learning a language, either at a language school or using an app subscription. Local libraries are always available for resources on any topics that you want a deeper understanding of.

Or how about exploring music lessons. There are always second-hand instruments available on reselling sites if you take a liking to it.

Need a sense of community or socialisation?
If you’re someone who needs to be around people, or you work from home and need more contact with others, select a hobby that’ll fulfil this. Chief Psychologist at Wysa, Smriti Joshi, explains that “people with positive social relationships tend to have better mental health as when we engage with activities that are enjoyable and fun, it triggers the feel-good chemical endorphins in our brain.”

You can use social media to find groups near you who partake in an activity you’re interested in. Equally, neighbourhood Facebook groups are a great place to start your own group if there’s a group hobby you want to do but isn’t currently established in the area. Board games, book clubs, or exercise clubs are great sociable activities.

Additionally, volunteering with a local organisation would give you a sense of community and social hub. There’s more than food banks and charity shops that need volunteers. You could work with young people at a club, or even participate in a community podcast or radio station.

Find the right hobby for YOU

Don’t be afraid to put down a hobby that isn’t fulfilling you. If you find it a drag, or it’s not bringing you any satisfaction or joy, then you’re not going to feel the positive benefits. Consider what you did or didn’t like about it, so that you can use that information to guide you in picking another hobby or activity.

If you’re worried about the cost of buying supplies for a new hobby you’re unsure about, look on eBay or Facebook marketplace to find affordable resources.

If you have any or multiple symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and are struggling to cope, please reach out to your GP or speak to Mind.

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