Creative Self Improvement

5 Creative Hobbies That Will Make You a Happier Person

Joel Lee 12-10-2015

In today’s productivity-driven culture, we all suffer from too much productivity-related stress 4 Ways To Take The Stress Out Of Productivity With a few well-targeted changes, you can boost your productivity by leaps and bounds. Apply these simple methods to your life and the result is what you would expect -- better work with lesser effort. Read More . Too many of us are stressed at work Stressed At Work? How To Relax & Focus In An Open Office Does working in an open plan office kill your productivity? You can probably blame the Germans for its wide adoption. But let's reconcile after you tried these tips. Read More , and when this seeps into our personal lives, we become depressed 7 Online Resources To Help Those Who Are Depressed & Suicidal Even though I am the Managing Editor of MakeUseOf, I have a huge disability in my life which is clinical depression. It started back in 2002, as a depression related to stress in my job,... Read More and ultimately forget how to cultivate happiness Learn the Science of Joy: Find the Best Happiness Advice Online Yes, you can learn to be happy but it’s going to take some determination. The best happiness advice should smoothen that effort. Read More .


And this is why it’s so important to have at least one creative hobby. Research shows that many creative hobbies have the power to improve our mental states — we’ll explore some of this evidence below — so it behooves us all to set aside some time every day for a bit of self-indulgent creative fun.

When apps that help relieve stress Stop. Breathe. Relax. 7 iOS Apps To Relieve Stress What a stressful day! We all have them from time to time, and while the best possible way to relax (at least in my book) is to leave everything and take a walk outside, this... Read More have become commonplace is when you know things have gone too far. The good news is, there are plenty of creative hobbies that you can start right now that will spur you towards a happier self.


Photography is a wonderful skill for anyone to pick up. Unlike most creative endeavors, which involve creating something out of nothing, photography is all about capturing the beauty that already exists around us — in nature, at home, or even on the streets.

Of all the reasons why everyone should learn photography, I think the most important is that it changes the way you see the world. Not only does it train you to see things from multiple perspectives, but it also gets you to see things that you normally overlook.

But more relevantly, photographs can invoke happiness:

Looking through photo albums makes you happier than chocolate, music, TV or even your favourite tipple, according to research revealed today by Orange.

The results show that the mood of those viewing photographs was consistently lifted by 11% during mood measuring tests whilst the groups who tried to eat, listen, watch, or drink their way to happiness registered a mere 1% increase.

Photography isn’t easy, so don’t expect this to be a walk in the park as far as learning curve is concerned. Photography is hard, but it’s one of the most satisfying and fulfilling skills you’ll ever learn.

Get Started Now: We recommend starting with these free YouTube photography channels Learning Photography: 5 YouTube Channels to Become a Pro There are hundreds of channels dedicated to photography lessons. The good ones are buried in the noise. We picked five of the best for you. Read More and these photography communities on Reddit How to Improve Your Photography Skills Using Reddit Looking for the best photography advice on Reddit? Here are the best subreddits for photography to help you get started. Read More . Then you can sharpen your skills with these online photography courses Master Photography By Studying It: 10 Great Online Photo Courses There's a lot of theory and knowledge behind a beautiful photograph, so much so that it can be overwhelming for the beginner. Fortunately, there are some great online resources that make getting started easier. Read More and these highly effective courses How to Improve Your Photography Overnight with is great for online learning. Of the 546 photography courses available, here are some of the best ones for sharpening your skills in just a few hours. Read More .


After 8-10 hours in an office, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have much of a connection with the earth. But what if I told you that gardening has been scientifically proven to be able to lift your mood? Would that make you more likely to step outside and get down and dirty?

Consider this gardening study from the Netherlands:

After completing a stressful task, two groups of people were instructed to either read indoors or garden for 30 minutes. Afterward, the group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the reading group, and they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

The article goes on to explain how gardening might have huge benefits for those suffering from depression:

In a study conducted in Norway, people who had been diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood, or “bipolar II disorder” spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables.

After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s more, their mood continued to be better three months after the gardening program ended.

Why? Part of the reason could involve bacteria in the dirt:

There is evidence that a bacteria in the soil called Mycobacterium vaccae may lift spirits. When fed to mice, these seemingly harmless bacteria stimulated their immune system and boosted the production of serotonin.

Another study on an experimental treatment for lung cancer found patients who received inoculation of the bacteria had fewer symptoms and improved emotional health. Higher levels of serotonin improve mood.

Long-term exposure to M. vaccae from childhood may help build a healthy immune system. It may just be that playing in the dirt does make us happy.

Get Started Now: Gardening can be scary to learn for a newbie, but there are a handful of gardening websites and apps Plan Your Garden For The New Year With These Great Websites And Apps For those of us lucky enough to not live in the middle of the city or to have a little land to call our own, the garden is often the most neglected part of the... Read More designed to help make it all easier. For the enthusiastic, consider looking into garden DIY and upcycling projects 10 Free Resources For Garden DIY & Upcycling Inspiration If you love gardening and like making things with your own hands, today's collection is right for you! This post shares ten most useful resources that will get you inspired and your creativity flowing: they... Read More for some extra fun. And for the advanced, these smart gardening devices 5 Smart Devices To Help Manage Your Garden Turns out, a smart garden is completely possible, thanks to the devices we are going to take a look at today. Read More are surprisingly awesome.

Writing & Journaling

Writing is often associated with creative blocks and depression, and it’s not uncommon to hear stories about authors who were so tormented by their psyches that they ended up succumbing to suicidal thoughts, but these stories aren’t exactly the norm.

In fact, certain kinds of writing have real effects on our moods, our thoughts, our outlooks, and even our personalities. Consider a 1994 study on the effects of expressive writing on reemployment rates:

They divided the engineers into three groups. In the control group, the engineers did nothing unusual. The remaining engineers were randomly assigned to a second control group, where they wrote about time management, or an expressive writing group, where they kept a journal about their deepest thoughts and feelings associated with the job loss.

Both groups wrote for five days, 20 minutes per day, describing the emotional challenges of searching for a new job, relationship problems, financial stressors, the immediate experience of being fired, losing their coworkers and feeling rejected.

The engineers who wrote down their thoughts and feelings about losing their jobs reported feeling less anger and hostility toward their former employer. They also reported drinking less. Eight months later, less than 19% of the engineers in the control groups were reemployed full-time, compared with more than 52% of the engineers in the expressive writing group.

And in a separate study, researchers arrived at groundbreaking conclusions regarding stressful and traumatic events:

Although writing about trauma is uncomfortable in the short run, after approximately two weeks, the costs disappear and the benefits emerge and they last.

They’ve found decreases in depression, anxiety, anger, and distress. They’ve shown that writing about stressful experiences also reduces absenteeism from work among employees and increases grade point averages among students.

They’ve even found that emotionally expressive writing has objective immune system benefits. After writing about traumas, people show higher t-cell growth, better liver function, and stronger antibody responses to hepatitis B vaccinations and Epstein-Barr virus.

Expressive writing — and to a lesser degree, creative writing — could be the difference between a stressful you and a blissful you. Fortunately, expressive writing is easy enough for anyone to get into: all you need is a journal and a pen.

Get Started Now: For absolute beginners, we recommend our guide to digital journaling The Beginner's Guide to Digital Journaling  Maintaining a private journal is a great way to build your writing skills, spill out your thoughts, desires, worries, and reflections on paper. The very act of writing itself can often help you think through... Read More , but we’ve also highlighted other ways to keep a digital journal 7 Ways to Keep a Personal Journal Journaling is an exercise for the mind and it has several proven benefits, but it can also seem difficult to do. This is primarily due to the overwhelming feeling of having to journal – it... Read More in the past so check them out for some great tips on getting started. Journaling can seem like a chore when you first start, so consider this 30-day challenge to develop a journaling habit Start A Digital Journaling Habit With A 30-Day Challenge One useful path to personal self-improvement is through keeping a journal. But this approach requires journal writing to become a habit. A journaling challenge could be the push you need to just begin. Read More .

Drawing & Painting

Like writing, art can be used as an expressive tool that helps us cope with stress and trauma. The term “art therapy” was coined back in 1942, and since then art therapy has been useful as one of many components in the treatment of psychological distress.

For example, a 2009 study found that art therapy successfully improved the moods of prison inmates:

Ongoing studies have revealed the positive effects of art therapy with prison inmates… specifically, the results demonstrated significant, positive change with both the male and female prison population in mood and locus of control.

What exactly is art therapy?

An art therapist may use a variety of art methods including drawing, painting, sculpture, and collage with clients ranging from young children to the elderly. Clients who have experienced emotional trauma, physical violence, domestic abuse, anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues can benefit from expressing themselves creatively.

In most art therapy sessions, the focus is on your inner experience—your feelings, perceptions, and imagination.

But even if you don’t go through art therapy proper, you can still reap some of the benefits. As it turns out, the actual act of drawing and painting also has a physical effect on your brain:

When you draw, dopamine is released. Dopamine is involved in the brain’s reward system, which also is the system associated with increasing creativity and lowering inhibitions… Drawing seems to cause neural interactions that give rise to pleasure.

…Thus, we feel rewarded when we create new objects or actions. And since creativity is based on the decisions made by the creator, the reward system kicks in when we are in control and inventing things that we have thought of ourselves. Freedom and ownership are part and parcel of the neurochemistry of the arts.

Get Started Now: These days, art is mostly digital. We recommend starting your journey with these courses for digital artists Learn Digital Art from Scratch With These 22 Lynda Courses With hundreds of online courses to choose from, is the fastest way to mastery of digital art. Here are a few courses to get you started. Read More which teach Photoshop, Illustrator, and so much more. Also check out these YouTube channels that teach you how to draw Learn To Draw Anything Thanks To YouTube [Stuff to Watch] Whether you're having trouble drawing facial features like eyes or haven't got a clue how to tackle a 3D perspective, it's YouTube to the rescue! Read More for skills that can be applied across all art forms.

Cooking & Baking

Time spent in the kitchen might be a nightmare to you, but once you overcome your kitchen fears Intimidated by Cooking? 6 Simple Tips to Conquer Your Kitchen Fears Eating out is awesome, but it doesn’t compare to the experience of cooking a meal from scratch. But it’s far too common for people to hold a phobia of the kitchen. Read More you’ll realize that cooking and baking are wonderful hobbies that can wash away stress and make you a happier person on multiple levels.

According to one health and wellness expert, the creative aspects of cooking makes us happier by activating the senses:

Cooking is a great destresser because it serves as a creative outlet. And while stress can numb your senses, cooking activates them. It’s a sensory experience with aroma, taste, touch, visual delight, and even sizzling sound.

She also says that cooking is a mental escape:

Cooking ensures such an intense involvement with an activity that it’s possible to forget, at least for a little while, about less than pleasant aspects of life.

This creative outlet allows people like you and me to channel undesirable or unhealthy energy into something productive and beautiful, as evidenced by one man who uses baking as a way to manage his manic depression:

Any structured non-stressful activity will help depression and increase well-being. Traditional occupational therapies generally work on a physical or projection platform.

For example, exercise sessions increase physical well-being and release endorphins that combat depression. Art therapy helps a patient project their depression through creating artwork; thereby helping a patient to better understand their condition. Baking can be seen as operating on both these platforms.

Plus, cooking your own meals from scratch is often healthier than eating out and it can help you slash your household expenses How to Slash Your Household Expenses in 7 Easy Steps Tired of seeing all of your income go towards bills and expenses? You aren't alone. We show you some of the best ways to slash your household expenses. Read More — two things that can help eliminate stress and thus improve your mental well-being.

Get Started Now: There’s no better place to start than these online cooking and baking classes Where to Find Free Online Cooking & Baking Classes Where do you go if you want to approach cooking and baking systematically? Most online cooking courses are paid, but these seven are both free and excellent. Read More , but these YouTube channels that teach how to cook Get Cooking With These 6 YouTube Channels Being a fast food aficionado, I recently recognized that it was high time for me to get back in the kitchen. I've spent way too long eating my meals on the run, and I'm sure... Read More are also great for beginners. Once you get the basics, play around with these fun culinary challenges 5 Fun Culinary Challenges to Improve Your Cooking Skills It's all too easy to lose your passion in the kitchen or to feel that your skills have plateaued. Luckily, these challenges exist to test your skills and reinvigorate your outlook on cooking. Read More .

What Are Your Creative Hobbies?

Being able to explore my own creative potential has made me a happier person, and I’m sure there are millions of others out there who can attest to the same thing. These creative hobbies aren’t just for fun; they have real, positive benefits for everyday people.

So isn’t it about time that you unlock your own creative potential 8 TED Talks That Will Help Unlock Your Creative Potential Practical advice for being creative is rare and hard to find, but it's out there if you know where to look. Here are our picks for the best TED Talks on being a creative. Read More ? A happier life awaits just around the corner.

Do you have any creative hobbies? Which ones have had the most impact on your mental well-being? Are you planning on picking up any others? Share with us in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.

Image Credit: A happy man by Andrei Mayatnik via Shutterstock, Hobbies/activities by Miski via Shutterstock

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  1. Anonymous
    November 16, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Writing CAN help you relax but if you write something embarrassing and many people see it it can cause a great deal of stress

  2. Laura
    April 22, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    I make cards as a hobby and love it, I find that it really helps me de-stress and love the end result too.

  3. Art
    November 15, 2016 at 11:57 am

    I found happiness in training dogs and showing them in obedience and herding trials. It's a cliche, but nothing loves you like a dog. When I'm working with them, I'm totally relaxed and get great satisfaction when we're working together as a team. Even after 30 years, I'm always learning something new. I got started in it when I was a computer programmer and got my first dog. I found I really enjoyed working with something that's alive in my spare time after working with machines at work.

  4. Robert South
    August 20, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    I see model railroading is missing. I am not surprised. Most news stories say it is a dying hobby.
    A movie titled "Model Citizen", was made in 2015 by a woman who happened to stumble upon the hobby.
    The movie does a great job of pointing out the many ways the hobby can be and is enjoyed by many of all ages and sex. Yes, there are women model railroaders.

  5. Anonymous
    December 18, 2015 at 7:51 am

    very nice article.

    • Joel Lee
      December 23, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      Thanks Kashif! Hope you found it helpful. :)

  6. Anonymous
    November 4, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Flower pressing is a perfect hobby that is both creative and relaxing. And you don't have to be unduly creative either because the flowers do everything for you. Easy to learn too!

  7. Anonymous
    October 13, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Hiking, fly tying, astronomy, any hobby that helps me to forget the daily grind for a while, makes me happy and recharges the batteries.

    • Joel Lee
      October 17, 2015 at 12:41 am

      What is fly tying? That sounds interesting. I can definitely see how astronomy would be relaxing. Stellar objects are simply beautiful.

      • Anonymous
        October 17, 2015 at 11:23 am

        "What is fly tying?"
        Something like calf roping, except with flies. :P

        Seriously, fly tying is making small fishing lures that imitate the look of flies and other insects. Google 'fly tying' for a more in depth explanation because my short, few word explanation will not do the activity justice.

        • Joel Lee
          October 17, 2015 at 12:46 pm

          Ohhh, flies as in fly fishing. That's awesome! I've only been fishing a few times in my life but I loved it every single time. I'd go more often if I wasn't so dang busy. Fly tying sounds like something I could do, though. Thanks for mentioning it! Never would've thought of that one.

        • Anonymous
          October 17, 2015 at 1:05 pm

          Fishing - a jerk on one end of the line waiting for a jerk on the other end.

          It is called 'fishing', not 'catching'

  8. Saikat Basu
    October 13, 2015 at 11:29 am

    I think one of the tricks is to spend time with a hobby "without even realizing that you are spending time". To explain simply, take a hobby and make it a normal part of our everyday existence instead of scheduling it in a calendar. Those micro-moments can definitely add to our happiness.

    • Joel Lee
      October 17, 2015 at 12:40 am

      Right on, Saikat. Those are definitely the best kinds of hobbies to have. What do you do without even realize you're spending time on it? For me, it used to be programming. Nowadays I don't know...

  9. Anonymous
    October 13, 2015 at 1:31 am

    My hobby is genealogy. It is challenging, involves lots of different aspects and never ends. I would consider it as more varied than any other hobbies I can think of.

    • Joel Lee
      October 17, 2015 at 12:39 am

      Hmm, interesting. How exactly does that work as a hobby? Do you try to trace the family histories of your friends? Or do you dig back hundreds and hundreds of years in your own family tree?

      • Anonymous
        October 17, 2015 at 12:52 am

        I research my family lines back hundreds of years and all of the affiliated lines, like my father and mother's grandparents and their parents and grandparents. It gets to be a wide range of people, though which you can find cousins that are living now. There is getting to be more information online now so it is somewhat easier to find records.

        • Joel Lee
          October 17, 2015 at 2:14 am

          Awesome! The Internet must be such a boon for a hobby like that. Can you imagine what it'd be like without it? Lol. I'd go mad!

  10. Anonymous
    October 13, 2015 at 1:07 am

    Metal Detecting is one of my hobbies that is fun, rewarding and good exercise. It is fun to get outside and enjoy to weather while not knowing what I might dig up. The looks on people's faces are the rewards when I find rings or jewelry that they thought would forever be lost. The exercise of getting up and down every few minutes will cause sore muscle to scream the next day.

    • Joel Lee
      October 17, 2015 at 12:38 am

      Oh wow, that's cool. Thanks for sharing Gary. I would love to try metal detecting one day, but I'm not sure how to start or if it would even be possible in an urban setting.

  11. Anonymous
    October 12, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    My hobbies are all of the above. Should that make me the happiest person on the planet?

    • Joel Lee
      October 17, 2015 at 12:38 am

      Lol, if only that were true! Creative hobbies can lend towards a happier life, but hobbies alone aren't sufficient for happiness.