If you suffer from anxiety and/or depression, you are certainly not alone. These common, debilitating mental health conditions are on the rise, and to feel better, it’s essential to be proactive.

In addition to traditional treatments, such as talk therapy, medication, exercise, and relaxation techniques, WebMD recommends getting involved in meaningful activities and diving into creative pursuits to rediscover your interests, talents, and strengths.

Here at Hobby Help, we know that hobbies come with a plethora of physical and mental health benefits, like beating the blues and staving off stress. Whether you’re keen on exploring a brand new hobby, or you’re intent on rediscovering an activity you once enjoyed, read on! We’ve compiled a list of the 12 best hobbies to fight anxiety and depression.

1. Photography

Countless experts are recommending mindfulness for brain and body health. To reap the benefits of mindfulness without traditional daily meditation sessions, consider picking up your camera and heading outside.

Not only does photography get you out of your head and home; it allows you to discover new, exciting places, tap into the beauty of nature, and preserve memories that can be passed down to future generations.

2. Playing Music

If you’ve always wanted to learn to play the guitar, saxophone, or piano, now is the time! Making music is a fantastic outlet for stress and uncomfortable emotions. Plus, playing an instrument in a group setting, such as a band or orchestra, is a great way to connect with other musicians.

WebMD suggests setting goals to help beat anxiety and depression. Setting and achieving musical goals is likely to boost your confidence, which will undoubtedly spill over into other areas of your life.

3.  Writing

A writing or journaling practice is a great way to express your thoughts and feelings. You never know what might come out when you put pen to paper. Many great writers have said that their own work surprised them.

Writing for depression and/or anxiety can be especially beneficial, as you can track symptoms and patterns that may be contributing to your condition(s). If the thought of journaling doesn’t excite you, try writing fiction, which can be an amazing escape from the monotony of everyday life.

4. Drawing, Painting, and Sculpting

Artistic pursuits can be incredibly healing. Engagement in creative activities has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and even mood disturbances. Creative expression through art has been linked to a myriad of health benefits, from improved physical and psychological wellbeing to quality of life.

Even if you’ve never explored your creative side, try drawing, painting, or sculpting. If you’re stumped on where to start, consider signing up for a class. We also recommend Zentangle, which is fun, relaxing, and will encourage you to expand your imagination.

5. Fiber Arts and Crafts

If you’ve never tried sewing or knitting, this is an excellent time to explore your crafty side. With so much information available online, you have a massive virtual library of free resources at your fingertips.

Healthline reports that creative pursuits have the power to shift a person’s thoughts from their health condition to the positive aspects of his or her life. In fact, engaging in crafts can mimic the effects of meditation.

6. Coloring

The joy of coloring isn’t reserved for kids. With so many adult coloring books on the market, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a selection that speaks to your inner child.

Coloring can be nostalgic, relaxing, and downright fun. Plus, completing a page is a welcome reward after a trying day.

7. Dancing

While virtually any type of physical activity can boost your mood and take your mind off your worries, dance serves as “moving meditation,” and it’s an excellent way to connect with others.

Many individuals view exercise as a chore, and for those with anxiety and/or depression, motivation to hit the treadmill can be seemingly impossible to summon. By pursuing a type of movement you actually enjoy, you’ll actually look forward to each sweat session.

8. Swimming

Many avid swimmers refer to the sport as medicine. It’s an invigorating, yet relaxing form of physical activity that’s repetitive, making it meditative.

In a blog post published on Psychcentral.com, associate editor Therese J. Borchard writes, “I’ve always known that I climb out of any pool a lot happier than when I dove in.” She adds, “It’s like taking a Tylenol for a headache!”

9. Yoga

You’ve probably heard that yoga is a natural stress reliever. As it turns out, finding your inner yogi can also lead to decreased anxiety and depression. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, “the scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent.”

The best part? You can practice yoga virtually anywhere. A quick Google search will connect you with classes in your area. We also recommend Yoga with Adriene’s Yoga for Anxiety and Stress and Yoga for Depression on YouTube.

10. Hiking

If you struggle with the ruminating thoughts that often accompany anxiety and depression, hiking can be particularly helpful. Doctors are now writing “nature prescriptions,” which encourage patients to disconnect from technology and reap the physical and mental health rewards of connecting with the great outdoors.

According to WebMD, just five minutes in nature can boost mood, self-esteem, and motivation. If lacing up your hiking boots seems more like a chore than a hobby, slip on your sneakers and take a brisk walk in the sunshine instead.

11. Gardening

Another great hobby that will help you become one with nature is gardening. Whether you choose to plant an entire vegetable garden or a pot of your favorite flowers, gardening stops ruminating thoughts in their tracks and decreases the severity of other mental health symptoms.

If gardening at home isn’t an option, consider volunteering at a community garden, or stop at a local nursery and look for plants you can grow indoors.

12. Cooking

It’s widely believed that certain foods can improve physical and mental health, but the act of cooking has also been linked to anxiety and depression relief. Preparing a meal requires focusing on the task at hand, and chopping, stirring, and sautéing can be downright meditative.

One key to keeping cooking fun is trying new ingredients. Look for recipes that incorporate foods known for their depression and anxiety-busting benefits. WebMD suggests plenty of antioxidants and protein, “smart” carbs, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids.

If you’ve never spent time in the kitchen, consider taking a cooking class. You’ll learn how to whip up your own healthy meals and connect with other new chefs.

Practice Courage, Commitment, Compassion, and Companionship

It takes courage to try a new hobby, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed and/or down. Try committing to a hobby from our list and practicing self-compassion. The last thing you need is a self-imposed guilt trip when dealing with anxiety and/or depression.

Prioritize your hobby time by scheduling the activity as you would schedule an appointment. It can also help to invite a friend to join you. Companionship can make a new activity more enjoyable and helps with accountability.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out our list of 100+ Awesome Hobbies to Try This Year. From collecting and crafts to outdoor activities and games, we’ve carefully curated a collection of fun, relaxing, and mood-lifting hobbies to help you experience life on a whole new level!