When you’re struggling with mental illness, it can be very useful to have certain activities where you can divert your attention from unpleasant thoughts and focus on something you enjoy. This could be anything from reading to making crafts to playing games. Fun activities are a great way for lifting your spirits and relieving stress, but there may come a point where the benefits begin to fade.
Many times I’ve found myself taking up an activity that I usually enjoy only to realize that in doing so I’ve missed an opportunity to have meaningful experiences with others, try something new, or learn something about myself. I also began to notice that I wasn’t as enthusiastic about what I was doing. For instance, I love to read, but over time I noticed that I was reading because I felt obligated to do so, which was my way of avoiding other responsibilities or situations. I also wasn’t as immersed in what I was reading. It became a habit rather than a hobby. Fortunately, I’ve worked out the best times of the day to read that won’t prevent me from experiencing other things that could enrich my life, and I’m beginning to find joy in this activity once again.
If you feel that your hobbies or activities aren’t as effective as they used to be, here are some ways to get the most out of them:
- Practice mindfulness. Being fully present makes your activities so much more enjoyable!
- Think about your motivation. What are your reasons for doing this activity, and what do you hope to get out of it? Do you really want to watch a movie or listen to music, or are you doing the activity because you can’t think of anything else to do? Are you avoiding something through the activity?
- Mix it up! If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, take up a new activity! Maybe you want to learn how to knit or play an instrument, or you might take a walk to a new location. Since you haven’t developed a routine for this activity, chances are you’ll stay more engaged instead of simply moving through a familiar set of motions.
- Pay attention to your feelings. How do you feel when you do this activity? Do you usually feel content, or are you sometimes distracted or numb? Your emotions are one of the biggest indicators of how effective your activities are, and they can also guide you toward the activity that is right for you in each particular moment.
How do you make your activities and experiences meaningful? What is your favorite activity? We would love for you to share in the comments section below!