How do social and leisure activities benefit our health?

social activity

Research has shown us time and again that our health and wellbeing aren’t just dependent on how our brains and bodies work; they’re also influenced by the way we live. 

Our lifestyles, what we do, how we spend our time and interact with others; this is also vital in helping us to better look after ourselves, connect with others, develop skills and confidence, break unhelpful habits, reach personal goals and have better general health and life satisfaction.

Want to know more about how certain activities can benefit your health and wellbeing? Here’s a few ideas to get you started. 

Work it out

We know that exercise is good for our physical health; reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. It also improves our sleep, mood, and helps us manage symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and PTSD. 

We might commonly associate exercise with going to the gym or for a run. If this is your thing then by all means go for it; however there are plenty of other options out there, especially now that Coronavirus restrictions are easing! Football leagues, walking groups, table tennis, surf clubs, dance classes, and gardening workshops are all starting up again and are also great forms of exercise! 

Check out www.headhacks.com to see what opportunities have started up again near you!

Get creative

It can be easy to put less of a focus on creativity as we get older, compared to when we were children, but spending time doing creative activities has actually been proven to have multiple health benefits. It can reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression, increase resilience and brain function, improve mood, and even boost our immune systems. 

There are so many different ways to get creative; you can take an art or craft class, get involved in photography, write blogs or lyrics, dance, make playlists, experiment with new make-up looks, the list goes on!

Be mindful

Mindfulness has so many positive benefits on not just our wellbeing, but also physical health such as pain management. Meditation might be the first thing we think about when the topic of mindfulness comes up, and meditation can be great! It’s also not everyone’s cup of tea. 

Luckily there are other ways to practice mindfulness and get those positive health benefits associated with it, including mindful ‘doing’, which is simply doing an activity while keeping your mind present and focused on what you’re doing. For example if you go for a walk outside, turn your phone on silent (or at least don’t look at it), leave your headphones at home, and focus on what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell around you. If you get distracted thinking about something else try to bring your thoughts back to what you’re doing again. This can also apply to cooking, art, gardening; whatever works for you!

Connect with others

Positive social connections have so much benefit to our health and wellbeing; including boosting mood and resilience, and even reducing risk of dementia. Socialising  looks different for each of us; some enjoy groups of people while others may prefer smaller one-to-one interactions or even interacting online rather than in person. That’s ok; we’re all different! The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities around to do things that will enable you to connect with others in a way that’s right for you. 

The beauty of focusing on doing an activity while you’re socialising (especially if you’re a bit anxious) is the focus will mostly be on the activity you’re doing, so will take the pressure off your social interactions, and can actually strengthen connections through participating together in the activity.

Online alternatives

With the ongoing risk of Coronavirus, health issues, or responsibilities at home you may not feel ready or able to go out and meet people or do things in person just yet. The good news is that, now more than ever, there are so many groups and activities available online; including live or pre-recorded exercise classes, dance classes, choir sessions, support groups and art and craft groups. 

To sum up

There are increasing opportunities, going on in our local areas and online, for us to get involved in the social and leisure activities that are important to us, and that will help support both our physical and mental health.

Head Hacks is a new online directory, setup by an Occupational Therapist, aiming to link people up with these activities and groups, as well as sharing useful information about managing health and wellbeing. Check out Head Hacks to find Things To Do near you!

 

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Mandy Kloppers
Author: Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.

Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.

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