7 Creative Hobbies That Improve Mental Health

Paintbrush at the ready 🎨

The pursuit of creative hobbies such as painting or knitting can increase emotional wellbeing and foster good mental health, new research has found.

A study of young adults found that everyday creative activities led to an “upward spiral” of increased wellbeing.

Researchers from the Department of Psychology at New Zealand’s University of Otago asked 658 university students to keep a daily journal to log their experiences and emotional state over 13 days.

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Lead study author Dr Tamlin Conner said she and her team hoped to find out whether engaging in everyday creative acts makes people feel better emotionally.

“There is growing recognition in psychology research that creativity is associated with emotional functioning. However, most of this work focuses on how emotions benefit or hamper creativity, not whether creativity benefits or hampers emotional wellbeing,” Dr Conner said in a statement.

The study did not specifically ask participants to specify the nature of their creative activity, but researchers had collected such information informally in an earlier study.

They found that the most common examples reported were songwriting; creative writing (poetry, short fiction); knitting and crochet; making new recipes; painting, drawing, and sketching; graphic and digital design; and musical performance.

The researchers found that “positive affect” (PA) - which includes feelings such as pleasurable engagement, happiness, joy, excitement, and enthusiasm - on a particular day did not predict next-day creative activity.

“Our earlier research found that PA appears to increase creativity during the same day, but our latest findings show that there is no cross-day effect. Rather, it is creative activity on the previous day that predicts wellbeing the next,” she says.

Even when controlling for next-day creative activity, the previous day’s creativity significantly predicted energised PA and flourishing.

Dr Conner and her co-authors added: “this finding suggests a particular kind of upward spiral for wellbeing and creativity - engaging in creative behaviour leads to increases in wellbeing the next day, and this increased wellbeing is likely to facilitate creative activity on the same day.

They conclude that “overall, these findings support the emerging emphasis on everyday creativity as a means of cultivating positive psychological functioning”.

Song Writing
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Creative Writing
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Knitting And Crochet
Betsie Van Der Meer via Getty Images
Making New Recipes
PhotoAlto/Sigrid Olsson via Getty Images
Painting, Drawing And Sketching
Diego Cervo via Getty Images
Black artist painting in art studio
Graphic And Digital Design
Thomas Barwick via Getty Images
Musical Performance
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