Learning a new hobby can help you keep your mental edge

We all know that our mental health is important and that as we get older, our brains can lose a bit of their edge. The good news is that many studies show learning a new hobby can help your brain by slowing decline and improving brain activity and memory as we age.

From hobbies that benefit your body and mind to simple methods of rewiring your brain, there is something everyone can do. Here are five hobbies that can help fire your grey matter and improve your focus.

Learning a hobby_gardeningGardening (most rewarding activity for brain health)

Most people can do gardening, even if it is on a small scale. In addition to providing a bit of cardiovascular and strength building, a 2019  study on 65-year-olds showed that gardening also helps to improve cognitive function. Everything from planting, raking, and watering can make a difference to brain activity, according to the study.

Digging in a garden turned out to be the most rewarding activity for brain activity. This mild physical activity improves reasoning as well as increases short and long-term memory. Added bonus? Increased Vitamin D levels from the sun.

Further studies also indicate that gardening is beneficial in improving concentration levels. Those with ADHD may find that 20 minutes of gardening a day helps improve concentration levels. Even for people that struggle to focus, planting may make the small life change you need.

Learning a hobby_meditatingMeditation (great for brain health & IQ)

Meditation is a straightforward and valuable way of increasing brain activity and memory. The study that investigated the effects of meditation on brain function also suggested a possible 6.4% improvement in IQ. It’s the proverbial win-win.

This form of brain exercise is not bound by cost, equipment, or space. Anyone can do it. The more experience the meditator had, the higher the level of their brain activity, according to the study.

Other studies also point to the amygdala region of the brain, related to threat awareness. This means meditating can give you a break from your fears and gives you the mental space to solve the problems that matter. 

Learning a hobby_gardeningLearning a hobby_knittingKnitting

Knitting in groups is one of the most beneficial hobbies for helping your brain. Regular knitting classes can improve your mind and introduce you to new friends. Knitting is close to meditation in the way that it lowers blood pressure and heart rate.

Knitting also gives you something to do with your hands. Studies show a clear link between knitting and its effect on managing eating disorders and anxieties. Both smokers and overeaters find that they consume far less when knitting.

The act of completing a knitting project boosts self-esteem and releases stress. Other studies suggest craft hobbies such as knitting can prevent memory loss and even improve brain function.

Learning a hobby_playing new instrumentLearning a New Instrument

Listening to music can activate the brain, but the real benefit comes from learning to play music. A large study of over 4,000 volunteers shows that learning an instrument could increase a person’s IQ by over 10%.

The average IQ improvement in the study was 9.7%, making it by far the most effective form of brain stimulation. Playing an instrument is as effective, if not better, than aerobic exercise. The guitar was the most popular in the study, but any instrument can help. 

Learning a hobby_exercisingExercise

We all know physical exercise can help our bodies. Studies show adding even a minor new physical activity to your daily regime can help your brain activity as well, although the more intense the sport, the greater the benefits all around. Activities that cause you to sweat and increase your heart rate will have the most effect on your brain.

Aerobic sports such as swimming, running, biking, and dancing all increase your rate of metabolism. This means your body is filtering out dead cells and regenerating faster, including those in the brain.

Exercise enhances your mood and reduces the likelihood of developing anxiety or depression. Exercise also improves mental awareness, potentially increasing your IQ by up to 7.37%.

New Hobbies Help Your Brain

The bottom line is taking up a new hobby can help mitigate the aging process. Begin with walking. Join a knitting class or group and push your creativity. Explore your mind with meditation. Not everyone has an affinity for music, though this should not stop you from picking up an instrument. Find time in the day for your favorite hobbies, and your brain will thank you for it.