Feeling bored? No matter how much or how little free time you have between work, family and social obligations, you can always squeeze in a few minutes or a few hours each week for some quality Y-O-U time.
Hobbies are about what you want to do. They’re what you love, what sparks your curiosity and what excites you. But that’s not all they can do for you. Research shows that partaking regularly in hobbies can lower your blood pressure, cortisol levels and body mass index. They’re also associated with improved mental health and better-managed depression and anxiety.
Picking up an active hobby, even if the exercise involved is light and limited, can build your muscular strength over time. For example, scientists have found that in those with lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis, light exercise improves respiratory function, even when your lungs and airways are compromised by scarring or inflammation.
And, if you’re feeling lonely or aimless, hobbies can help you meet new friends who are interested in similar things and help you structure your time in purposeful ways. For older individuals, these two factors can help you live a longer and happier life, regardless of health problems.
Not sure where to get started? Here are 22 hobby ideas that are perfect for people with chronic illnesses.
Looking for a fantastic, low-impact exercise? Head to the swimming hole! With the choice of basic laps, in-water workout classes and scads of games to play, there’s lots to make the trek to your local aquatic center worthwhile. Even folks looking for pulmonary fibrosis therapy can enjoy splashing around, though if you’re new to the workout scene or you’re an inexperienced swimmer, go with a buddy who can keep an eye on you, just in case.
Crafting requires both creativity and analytical problem-solving. That means that it puts both the left and the right sides of the brain to work, improving communication between the two hemispheres. We like quilting because it is accessible for beginners. Quilting is experiencing a renaissance both in the U.S. and across the globe: local quilt guilds with diverse member demographics can be found in most towns and cities.
Other options for those who want to take up traditional crafts include knitting, crocheting, mosaics, weaving, pottery, embroidery, calligraphy, felting and macramé.
Hailing from China, this ancient martial art is shown to lower stress, increase flexibility and range of motion and improve balance. Studying tai chi offers followers a front-row seat to learning and appreciating a rich culture and the defensive arts developed and kept alive by it’s people. Because it’s gentle on the body and can be self-paced, tai chi is an appropriate choice for patients struggling with decreased muscle strength, lung function or joint pain.
Want to get back to nature? Plop down in a garden patch and get digging, friend. The great thing about gardening is that there’s always something to do, no matter the season. Whether you’re gardening indoors or out, scientists report that it’s a wonderful way to work out some of the hallmark mental health symptoms of chronic illness: stress, anger, fatigue, depression and anxiety.
The death of blogs has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, as users become more critical of popular social media platforms, the blog is looking ripe for a resurgence. Why not start your own? You can write about your life, your interests and even your illness. You could share recipes or photographs. You could even critique movies or television shows. Many amateur bloggers have gotten a foothold on rating sites like Rotten Tomatoes.
Playing Tabletop Games
Chronic illness can make it difficult to get out of the house. We get it – that’s why we love a tabletop game. Cards, Monopoly, Dungeons & Dragons, Mahjong, Trivial Pursuit, Risk, puzzles, Parcheesi – there are all sorts of options for all sorts of players. You can play by yourself or you can play with a group. It’s your roll – er, your choice.
For many, chronic illness can mean difficult mornings and afternoons. Thanks to symptoms like stiffness, breathlessness and discomfort after waking, it’s easier for people with chronic diseases to be active at night rather than during the day. That makes activities like astronomy an appropriate pick. There are numerous smartphone apps that can help you get started, even without a telescope.
Coaching a Sports Team
Just because a chronic illness has sidelined you from a favorite sport doesn’t mean you’re permanently benched. It might be possible for you to take up a coaching gig for a rec league for kids or adults. Check with your local parks and recreation department to see what the application process is for coaching appointments.
Love reading? Have a knack for geometry or biology? In addition to school-aged children and teens struggling with homework, 32 million adults in the U.S. have trouble reading. From school districts to national literacy campaigns to community centers, there are all sorts of places that can help you help others.
What began – and continues to be – a spiritual practice in India is now a world-wide workout phenomenon. While we appreciate what yoga can do for the body, we are also interested in how it helps ease the mind. Look for a studio that’s respectful of yoga’s origin in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, and take the time to learn and appreciate its foundations.
Put your free time to work with a handcraft hobby that you can admire at the end of the day. Whether you want to whittle or whip out a saw, woodworking is a soothing hobby that will help you focus on what’s occupying your fingers. Make sure to wear a mask or a bandana over your nose and mouth, as wood dust can compromise your respiratory health.
If you can hold a tune, singing with a group might be just the thing. You often don’t even need to be particularly experienced or read music to join a choir. Many welcome all-comers and beginners. Singing is wonderful exercise for your respiratory system and your brain, too. The rhythmic breathing required should lower your stress levels, improve your mental health and increase your lung capacity – an ideal hobby for pulmonary fibrosis therapy.
You don’t need to be sitting on a pot of gold to start playing the market. In fact, you don’t need to have cash in the bank at all. There are loads of desktop games and smartphone apps that use real-world stock data to simulate investment trading without putting any of your actual money at risk. While it’s an independent hobby, it’s also a fun activity to take up within a group of family members or friends.
Want to save the world? Try turning pieces of everyday trash into DIY treasures. There are more ways to keep garbage out of landfills than by taking a zero-waste challenge. (And honestly, for those with chronic illnesses, no-waste is near impossible.) Instead, upcycle old materials – wood, plastic, metal, etc. into works of art, home décor and furniture. This is another path toward making the world a greener place.
Hosting a Supper Club
You don’t have to be a graduate of culinary school to play hostess like Ina Garten. The great thing about creating or joining a supper club is that it’s more about company than about serving up a fancy, five-course meal. Think of it as a chance to share your love for chef-ing or getting your feet wet in the kitchen, depending on your experience level. And if you mess up? There’s always delivery. Be sure to pack your sense of humor too.
For those trying to stay active with a chronic illness, hopping on a bike is top-notch exercise that you can adjust to your own abilities. For those with joint or back pain, recumbent bikes or cruisers are easy-to-find and are affordable. You can even rent them from a local bike shop if you’re not sure it’s worth the investment.
Playing an Instrument
If you had “garage band” dreams when you were younger, now’s your big chance. The bonus: You don’t have to worry about getting peer-pressured into percussion when you really have your sights set on the saxophone. Feeling more independent? Go ahead and pick up the piccolo, piano or, heck, even the glockenspiel solo.
Whether you like the Latin beats of salsa, prefer Caribbean reggae or you’re in a more classical frame of mind, ballroom offers lots of options for recreational exercise and socialization. Even if you don’t have a partner in crime, you can show up to a dance class, a mixer or a club and find someone who will hit the floor with you. And if you need to sit one out or you’re more into the music and less into the movement, that’s okay, too! All are welcome in the dance scene.
Performing Stand-Up Comedy
If you’re looking for a challenge, we’ve found one for you. Fans of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel know what we’re talking about. For those brave few with the drive to succeed or tap into their own brand of funny, why not grab a mic? There are venues all over the place that offer amateur nights. Get up on that stage and tell your story! And, really, what do you have to lose?
Don’t get us wrong, we’re thankful for modern inventions like medicine and the World Wide Web, but we still get a hankering for the quaintness of yesteryear. Take to the letter. Love letters, thank you notes, shared worries and joys? We’d much rather find those in our mailbox than a towering pile of bills. Go old-school and start leading by example. All you need is a packet of stamps, a piece of paper and a pen. Oh, and an address that doesn’t include an @ sign. You remember those, right?
Who said kids get to have all the fun? While they’re an excellent way to bond with younger family members, they’re great for adult-only enjoyment, too. Video games aren’t all shoot-’em-ups and simulations, either – although if that’s your thing, grab a controller and enjoy a round. You can find all sorts of different games, from cinematic tie-ins to story-centric role-playing to mysteries and more. Be on the lookout for independent game designers and give older platforms a try, too.
The world needs more pollinators and you need a hobby. Why not combine the two? Keeping a hive requires dedication, but bees aren’t terribly high maintenance and they come with a sugary-sweet bonus you can look forward to. There are many types of hives that are suitable for beginners with a fondness for insects and honey. All you need to get started is a rooftop or a bit of land. Even a tenth of an acre will do!
Whatever hobby you pick, it’s important to take your symptoms and limitations into consideration along with your personal preferences. If you have trouble finding something you love, or you find an activity you enjoy but find that your symptoms get in the way, check in with an online or in-person community. They might be able to point you toward another option that you’ll like just as much. Hello new hobby!