Ways to Improve Physical and Mental Health

Spring forward and the vernal equinox sure help me improve mental and physical health! It’s that time of year when we start to come out of hibernation. I have a bit more energy to tackle, well – anything. If you have been around here for a minute, you know how much I love books and gardening. These are a couple of my favorite hobbies. I want to share with you why they also improve mental and physical health in hopes you will be inspired to add a hobby to your life. 

Benefits of Books

While self-improvement and memoir are in my top favorites to read, fiction is what is my favorite for escape, relaxation and general enjoyment. Research proves this is not just in my head. Reading fiction can

  • Reduce stress by 68% – demonstrated by lowered heart rate and muscle tension
  • Enhance “Theory of Mind” which is the ability to understand other’s mental states and show increased empathy. 
  • Increase your life span. According to Social Science and Medicine, those who read 3.5 hours per week had a 17|% lower risk of dying in the next 12 years. Reading MORE than 3.5 hours per week lower their risk by 23%. 

Source: Dr Caroline Leaf

Benefits of Gardening

Gardening can be equally healthy – both mentally and physically. You don’t have to have an elaborate or expansive property, even a simple container garden on the balcony of an apartment can bring you benefits. 

Benefits of Hobbies in General

While books and gardening might not be your jam, I cannot encourage you enough to find your jam. Hobbies give you a respite from the grind. You are more than the sum of your work hours. Whether that work is something that gets a W2 or not you need a hobby. 

  • Stay at home moms need time to give to themselves just as generously as they give to all of their people ALL DAY (and sometimes night) LONG.
  • CEOs need to take off the high heels and put up their feet to just be, not to solve all the problems. 
  • And where are my teachers? Sheesh, you are the CEO, mothers, tech support, and educators that the rest of us can’t even pretend to keep up with. 

It is more important to find some kind of hobby that to find the perfect hobby. No matter what you try, the simple pursuit of a hobby is what will reduce your need to escape your life. 

Extra Credit

Hobbies are just as important as laughter. If you want bonus points towards creating a life you don’t need to escape, check out this “No’s of Hobbies” podcast episode. 

By |2021-03-21T12:11:15-04:00March 23rd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Gardening and Sustainability

Gardening and sustainability – its not just for the planet, gardening and sustainability are good for the soul in a variety of ways. Let me explain, and you might find you want to try it in an effort to create a sustainable you.

Mental Well-being

In general hobbies are good for improving your mental well-being. Over the years, researchers have documented numerous benefits of hobbies such as:

  • Reduced stress
  • Less depression and low mood
  • Increased happiness and relaxation
  • Improved communication
  • Enhanced relationships

There is more to life than work and sleep. If you are in a relationship, having hobbies on your own can offer a chance for you to break away to learn something new, then be excited to come home to tell your partner about the experience. Participating in hobbies with your partner can also be a different option to just vegging out on the couch. 

Gardening and Sustainability

Bixby at a recent cooking class we took together. It was great to change routine, learn knife skills from a professional chef, and eat the delicious creations we made in class.

But wait! There is more. Let’s peel another layer off of this onion.

Specifically My Mental Well-being

One of my hobbies is gardening. I have others, but I want to drill down into this one. I am not a great gardener, but I just love to get my hands in the dirt. I feel so accomplished when I leave an overgrown spot with a bin full of weeds and an open garden space with only what I love left in the dirt. 
This is not just a placebo effect or vitamin D benefits. Turns out there are microbes in the soil that have a similar impact to your brain as do anti-depressants. There is scientific evidence that microbes in dirt boost serotonin in your blood system. Seratonin is a mood elevating hormone. 
So while gardening is good exercise and creates a beautiful environment, it also has been scientifically proven to enhance your mental well-being. What a hobby! But there is more, let’s keep digging (pun intended). 
In project management we have a tool called the 5 Why’s. Don’t just look on the surface then move on assuming you covered it all. Let’s go one step more in this example about gardening and sustainability. 

Specifically Healing My Mental Well-being

As I write this I am at my dad’s house in Indiana helping him recover from a total knee replacement surgery. The last time I was here was when my mom died in January. Because of grief and a pesky pandemic, none of her stuff has been cleared out. It is like she went to the store and will be right back.
Including her gardens. My mom was a Gold-Level Master Gardener and honestly, a wizard with plants. It has been healing to putter around in her natural world pulling a weed here, staking a plant there. I talk to her out there. This is sustainability for me – more than just saving the planet. Saving my soul.
Gardening and sustainability

Scene from my mom’s garden. 

That is the power of habits. They can be as simple as a small hobby that gets you out of the house and boosts your mood or it can be a generational gift that supports your grief. What hobby do you have? Is there something you have been meaning to try or pick up that would be a good distraction for you? 

By |2023-02-14T07:40:18-05:00August 4th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments
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