If your mental health needs a boost, or even if you are just trying to maintain your wellbeing, creative hobbies are a fantastic way to do help improve your psychological health.
Creative hobbies help you to use your time for something positive. It’s easy to idle away hours doing on social media or TV, and more often than not, it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. In fact, research has shown a link between mental health difficulties and excessive time on social media.
Creative hobbies help to focus your mind by getting you into a state of flow. This can get you out of your head and away from any problems or difficult thoughts that you might have. Creating something and learning new skills can also boost your self-esteem, as well as give your brain a healthy workout – boosting your attention span, memory and problem-solving skills.
I’ve put together a big list of possible hobbies. It can be easy to get overwhelmed if you are not feeling well, so I suggest circling up to five that you like the sound of, and picking one to try for a little while.
Creative Hobbies to Improve Your Mental Health
Drawing is a creative hobby that can improve your mental health by giving you an outlet to express yourself. And you don’t need to consider yourself artistic to benefit. Don’t be put off by thoughts like “but I am no good at drawing”. Often, all you need is the right input. Try watching drawing tutorials on YouTube – you might be surprised what you can actually draw.
Drawing random scribbles on pieces of paper may have more mental health benefits than you’d think. It has been shown to relieve stress and improve relaxation, as well as help give you a break from focusing on things, which in turn can lead to a better ability to solve problems.
It can also help to improve attention and concentration – some of the difficulties associated with depression.
Coloring is an absorbing challenge that improves your attention span and fine motor skills. Adult coloring books have boomed in recent years as people have discovered the psychological benefits of coloring. A quick search online will show you that you have a huge choice of what you can color in to help you relax, from mandalas and patterns, to animals, and even swear words!
4. Making Mosaics
Mosaics are traditionally made from tile, stone or glass, using smaller pieces to create a larger image. Focusing on each small part at a time is good for helping your attention span and concentration. And the feeling of satisfaction that you get from completing an image can also help to boost confidence and self-esteem.
Painting is another form of art which has been shown to have mental health benefits, giving you increased flow and concentration, and allowing you to express yourself visually. And there are plenty of different types of painting you could try, depending on which type of paint you find the most enjoyable to use (for example, acrylic, watercolor, finger painting, spray paint, etc.).
6. Make clay miniatures
Clay miniatures, often made of polymer, are often items for dolls houses, such as furniture, dolls, animals or food. In making clay miniatures, you can learn a range of different techniques on how to work with the polymer to build your tiny creations. As well as the mental health benefits of learning new skills, this can help increase your manual dexterity by using your hands to create such small pieces.
7. Make multimedia art
There’s satisfaction to be found in finding different materials and creating pieces of art from them. You could do something like mixing paint with magazine cut-outs and things you might throw away from the kitchen. You can experience a boost in self-esteem by making environmentally friendly art from what would otherwise be waste.
8. Digital design
Digital design, or graphic design, is creating visual images on a computer, often using programs such as Illustrator or Photoshop, although these can be pricey. You could try messing around creating images and designs with cheap/free software like Pixelmator or Canva first. Creating images for e-cards can also be a good way of focusing on others, which has been shown to help mental wellbeing.
Sculpting is another versatile art form that can help to improve your mental health through focus and self-expression. You have a variety of materials, sizes and subjects to choose from. Not sure where to start? A quick Google or YouTube search will help you to learn some basic techniques for a range of mediums.
10. Make mandalas
Mandalas are repeating geometric patterns that originate in Buddhist and Hindu symbolism as tools of meditation and spiritual guidance. They have become more widely used in the West as a means of relaxation and technique in art therapy and there is no religious link required to benefit from this ancient art. You can draw mandalas freehand or with a compass, and there are plenty of online tutorials to get you started.
11. Candle making
Candles are easy to make and creating your own can help to give you a sense of satisfaction, which will boost your mood. As well as the creative side of candle making, the scents of aromatherapy candles can help you to feel relaxed. Candles also make great gifts, and giving gifts can help increase your sense of connection with other people.
12. Soap making
Soap can bring a sense of satisfaction both when making and using it. Soap creation is a methodical process which requires focus. Like candles, the scents of soap can be relaxing. Why not try researching which scents are supposed to have which psychological effects and experimenting with different smells and ingredients?
Woodworking is an activity that uses all of your brain. It involves physical coordination, planning, creativity, and concentration. It can be challenging and hard work to master woodworking, which helps to boost self-esteem and confidence.
14. Furniture restoration
Taking something old, disused, or unloved and breathing new life into it is a rewarding endeavor. Furniture restoration gives you a short-term goal and exercises both your creativity and problem-solving skills, and can bring a sense of pride when you have a beautiful piece of furniture at the end.
15. Fashion design
Fashion has been shown to have an impact on our thoughts, feelings, and how we perceive our identities. It has been suggested that you should dress how you want to feel. And of course, you can experience pride and satisfaction by creating your own designs. You could start by making some clothes from patterns or following some tutorials or an online course.
16. Costume design
Costume designers design and create outfits for specific purposes, such as theater or TV. You could take the characters from your favorite book, play or show and design outfits for them, and take pleasure in forging a connection with these characters. Try working with recycled materials for an extra feel-good factor.
There is evidence that knitting can help to alleviate depression and anxiety as well as lower blood pressure and reduce chronic pain. Knitting is a common hobby, so you may be able to find knitting groups in your local area where you can connect with others who have similar interests.
Quilting is another hobby that has been shown to have a link with improved mental health. It is challenging, creative, and requires new skills. There is also a strong online quilting community (and in some locations, face-to-face communities), providing a good network of social support from fellow quilters.
Embroidery can be done by hand or machine. Hand embroidery gives you more options than machine embroidery and allows you to make something unique and personal. It is another activity which creates a sense of flow and fulfilment in producing something that has taken time, effort and concentration.
20. Cross stitch
Cross stitch has the potential to relieve stress and increase your sense of contentment. Start with following simple patterns and you will gain a sense of achievement after completing your first design. You can then move onto more complex patterns as you improve your skills.
Weaving is the creating of fabric or items such as baskets by spinning yarn, wool or other materials. You could use a loom or do different types of pleating and braiding. There are quite a few options when it comes to weaving, so check out some beginner’s resources online to help you decide where to start.
Scrapbooking is where you collect memories or your family history into a book (although you can use a box or methods). Putting together a scrapbook of positive memories may be useful for brightening your mood if you feel low or need a boost.
Felting can consist of both the making of the felt itself and making creations out of felt. Felt is created by condensing and matting fibers together, which can then be used to make loads of different things, from garments and accessories to toys and ornaments. Creating something interesting from simple fibers has the potential to bring a sense of achievement.
The art of paper folding – origami – is used in a range of therapeutic settings. It improves your motor skills and helps with concentration and is thought to improve mindfulness, which has been shown to calm the mind and promote feelings of peace, as well as help with mental health difficulties.
Calligraphy is the art of creating decorative lettering with a pen or brush. Calligraphy is suggested to have a calming effect by slowing down the heart rate and increasing the temperature of the skin. And, as with many of these hobbies, creating something beautiful has the capacity to generate feelings of pleasure.
Typography is the design and arrangement of fonts and typeface. Typographers create different feelings and emotional reactions with the shape and features of their lettering. You could try creating typefaces that help you to express your feelings.
27. Paper making
You can make handmade paper using old scraps of paper such as newspapers, receipts, and so on. There is a sense of joy to be gained in recycling something which would otherwise get thrown away, and creating something beautiful in the process. Check out some online tutorials to find out how to start making your own paper.
28. Paper mache
Paper mache is usually made from pulped up paper and glue or paste, which is used to create sculptures, decorative items, hats, toys, and so on. It has been suggested to have a positive impact on anxiety, including PTSD, and other mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder.
Upcycling is taking broken or disused items, or things that would otherwise be considered trash, and turning them into useful or beautiful pieces such as furniture, jewellery or home decorations. As well as the benefits gained from creating something, you can also feel positive about being reducing waste and being environmentally friendly.
30. Screen printing
Screen printing is where you use mesh, ink and stencils to print designs onto fabrics and other materials, for example, t-shirts. Screen printing is quite unique in terms of the techniques that are used, meaning you can benefit psychologically from learning new skills. Working with vivid colors may also have a positive impact on your wellbeing.
31. Rubber stamping
Rubber stamping is a great creative hobby for those who don’t feel particularly artistic. You can use pre-cut designs and ink to build bigger images, for example, on greetings cards. It’s instantly rewarding, and if you get really into it, you could even look into creating your own stamps.
Eating well is an important factor in good mental health, and the best way to eat well is to get creative by cooking healthy food at home. If you’re new to cooking, try following some recipes to start with to learn about how to mix different ingredients together.
Okay, so minus the health benefits of cooking, but creating tasty treats can be rewarding. Baking is more science than cooking, but you can unleash more of your creativity with decorating your baked goods, such as cakes.
34. Make greetings cards
You could handmake greetings cards or even design them on the computer. The great thing about making cards is that you are thinking about someone else, and being kind and thoughtful towards others has been shown to have a positive effect on your own mental health.
35. Bead art
Beads can be used to create jewellery, sculptures and all different sorts of artwork. Beads can come in lots of different shapes and sizes, so you can select which type of beads you find most appealing. This is another form of creativity that is thought to lower blood pressure.
36. Jewellery making
Jewellery also can be made from lots of different materials and can encompass many techniques, which gives you flexibility to make your favorite kind of jewellery. It’s a popular hobby, and you may be able to find some classes or groups local to you.
37. Nail art
Looking good can give your mood a positive boost. You can also get the feel-good factor by treating your friends and family to your designs. Refocusing your energy on doing something positive for yourself can help you to feel more relaxed.
Similarly to nail design, getting into makeup design is a positive outlet that can help you feel good by looking great and making those around you feel good too. There are plenty of tutorials online to get you started, and you will probably find plenty of willing participants.
39. Flower arranging
Flower arranging is more than just cutting flowers and placing them in a vase. It is an art that has had a bit of a resurgence with Instagram and Pinterest, and it could be an excellent hobby to help boost your mental health. Flowers are thought to improve anxiety, help sleep and memory, and change your emotions.
Comic books, coins, stamps, memorabilia – these are just some of the things you could collect. Collections can help you feel connected to the past and treasure memories. Think about the things you really enjoy and whether you could collect something related to that.
Spending time outdoors is good for you both physically and mentally. Being in nature has proven mental health benefits, and the exercise you get from gardening can give you an endorphin boost (endorphins are the feel-good chemical in your brain). Gardening can also help you to be more mindful and accepting when things don’t go exactly as planned.
Singing is an excellent hobby to improve your mental health. Not only does it release endorphins, but it improves blood circulation, meaning more oxygen can reach your brain, making you feel more energised and alert. It also increases memory and concentration, both of which can be reduced if you are experiencing mental health issues such as depression.
43. Play an instrument
Learning to play an instrument is a rewarding way to spend your time. When you’re learning to play, you use almost every part of your brain. Developing your skills on an instrument can boost your self-esteem and can even help your immune system.
Tip: A really great instrument for instant gratification is learning to play the drums. It’s satisfying even when you’re just learning the basics!
44. Make music using technology
You don’t have to learn an instrument to make music. Programs like Ableton, Fruity Loops and Logic mean that you can make music from the comfort of your mouse mat. Learning to use these pieces of technology can exercise and develop your problem-solving skills, as well as your musical creativity. You also don’t have to worry about other people hearing you when you’re learning or performing on an instrument.
To the uninitiated, DJing might seem like just ‘pushing buttons’, but there is a lot of skill involved in curating and mixing tracks together. The great thing about DJing is you get to listen to all your favorite music all the time, even before you develop the skills of getting the tracks to work together, which will help to boost your mood.
You could try something traditional like ballet or ballroom dancing, or more modern styles like hip hop or even pole dancing. If you don’t get on with choreographed styles, you could try doing to a class like Zumba or just going to boogy to some DJs or live music.
The added benefit of dancing is that it keeps you fit, which will release endorphins and have a great impact on your mental health. You are also likely to do dance with others, meaning that you get the benefits of socialising too.
Songwriting has been found to be a good way of expressing your emotions in a positive channel, and deal with any difficult emotions you might be experiencing. This is a good alternative to avoiding your issues, and can help to promote good mental health.
Writing poetry has similar benefits to songwriting in that it can help you to deal with difficult emotions. It also improves your cognitive functioning (how your brain works) by getting you to learn new words, or work within specific styles of poetry writing, which might require a certain number of syllables or length of verse.
49. Creative writing
Creative writing, like other types of writing, is beneficial for giving you an emotional outlet. It can also give you an overall improved perspective on your life as well as encourage you to achieve your goals. Try finding some writing tutorials or going to a group or class to get you started (and potentially make new friends).
Journaling is where you write about your life and things that have happened to you. It can help you to make sense of things if you get them down on paper. You can learn to creatively reframe your difficulties in a more positive way and learn ways of managing negative thoughts and behaviour.
Blogging can take many forms, and whether you blog about music, makeup, or even your mental health difficulties, you can learn new creative skills, express your feelings, and even build a community with people who read your blog. Setting a blog up on Wix or Squarespace is pretty easy.
52. Stand-up comedy
It may sound daunting to most, but giving stand-up comedy a try can give you a serious confidence boost. If you can stand up in front of a crowd and make them laugh, you will feel really great about yourself. You are also likely to meet new friends when going to stand-up gigs. Starting out on a course with other beginners is the best way to learn the craft and get you up there.
Improv is improvised or unscripted theater or comedy where you create scenes with other people based on a prompt. It can be helpful for improving mindfulness, self-awareness, confidence, and building connections with other people. And, it’s really fun!
There is evidence that drama can help people to live longer, recover from mental illness, and get more enjoyment out of life. Memorizing lines and using your imagination can help to give your brain a boost, and you can also benefit from being around other people and building relationships with other people involved in the theater.
Podcasting is a great hobby to give you a lift. You can focus on planning episodes, learning new skills (such as audio editing), and enjoy getting stuck into a topic that really interests you. You could also try putting together a podcast with a friend or someone with similar interests to give you some of the mental health benefits of socialising.
56. Create a YouTube channel
A YouTube channel is also a great way of learning a lot of new skills, such as video editing, camera work, and making artwork for your videos which can give your mental wellbeing a lift. Vlogging may bring some of the benefits of journaling and scrapbooking, or you could create all sorts of videos on different topics – from makeup tutorials to comedy sketches.
You can create videos of interesting events, animals, and anything that interests you that might make for a subject of a video. Videography can also include the editing of videos. This is another hobby where you can learn new skills and gain a sense of satisfaction from piecing together raw footage to create a piece of art that flows.
Photography can help to give you a new perspective on the world and allow you to notice your surroundings more. It can help you to be more mindful by encouraging you to see the beauty in ordinary things. Photography is also an opportunity to tell your story through imagery and in this way can help you to express yourself and your feelings.
Illustrators create imagery to go with stories, whether that is through painting, drawing, or computer-generated images. Similarly to costume design, this can help you feel closer to characters in books, or you may learn more about a new topic, for example, if you illustrate a book or article about animals.
Animation is creating moving images to tell a story. This also takes different forms and might be computer-based, hand drawn or stop motion. This is another hobby where there are lots of skills to be gained, and one where you can express your emotions and tell your story. Storytelling has been shown to be empowering and can help those with mental health difficulties.
61. Web design
Web designers use code to create the visual aspects of websites. Although you need to have technical knowledge, you can learn how to code online or at a class (often for free), and start to use your knowledge to put together beautiful websites. This is a hobby that could even help you in your future career.
62. Learning a language
Learning a language may not immediately sound like a creative hobby. But when you have learned the basics and start to talk or write in another language, you will need to use creativity to communicate with others by finding ways of saying things using the language that you know.
Try attending some classes or getting a tutor so that you can make the best progress, as well as have some social contact with others. If you can’t find anything in your local area, find some online lessons, for example through iTalki or Verbling.
A creative hobby can boost mental health in lots of ways:
- Learning new skills
- Focus on something other than your problems
- Improved connections with others
- Giving you a brain workout
- Increased confidence
- Expressing emotions
It’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. Pick one hobby to try for a few weeks and see how it goes. If you don’t know where to start, or you want to find out more information about a hobby first, look on YouTube.
On the other hand, don’t feel that you have to commit to one hobby once you start. You don’t want to feel like your new hobby is just another job on the to-do list. If you don’t feel like practising your guitar today, how about picking up a paintbrush instead?
TIP: Have a look in your local area to see if there are any creative groups or classes you could attend. This will not only bring you the benefit of the hobby itself, but also provide mental health benefits that come with socialising.
Creative hobbies are a fantastic way of improving your mental health, but sometimes you might need other help, such as talking therapies. If you struggle with feeling low, anxious, or have other difficulties that don’t improve, make an appointment to see your doctor.