Hobbies are an essential part of life, and something I made it a point to beginning this year to keep my mind out of perpetual "work mode." I know it can feel like a luxury to have a hobby, particularly if your budget or time is tight, but it doesn't have to be that way. Make it a point to give yourself a little "me" time by picking up a hobby, and you'll start wondering what you did without it! If you're totally unsure where to start and don't want to invest a lot of money, give one of these five budget-friendly hobbies a shot to help you unwind, release tension, and focus on something fun.
Learn a New Skill
What's something you've always wanted to learn, but weren't sure where to start? Chances are, if you want to learn it, you can probably do so for very little money, or even for free. Try YouTube for easy to use tutorials, CodeAcademy if you've always wanted to learn coding, or even enroll in a free class online that's offered by Stanford or MIT if you want to stretch those academia skills. The best way to tackle a new skill is to dedicate a specific time to learning it (I call it "going back to school" and set aside one day a week dedicated to learning) and making sure to take the time to implement the skills you've just learned, otherwise you might fall out of practice and have to start all over again.
Join a Book Club
Not only does a book club include the added benefit of joining a community, it also helps you force yourself into taking time to stop running around and start reading. Most book clubs will include popular novels that are readily accessible in your local library, or may even be available for a small fee on Amazon's Kindle. If you're not the social type, check your public library for the latest books, as many will have a section of the library dedicated solely to staff recommendations.
Crosswords and Mind Puzzles
If you're a problem solver, pick up a newspaper and head to the crossword pages to give your mind a workout. (PS - If you're stumped, try a site like Mordo Crosswords, that publish hints and crossword puzzle answers) Not only will mind puzzles (like Sudoku or word scramble) and crosswords force you to focus directly on them, they also help you improve your problem-solving abilities and help improve your memory recall abilities.
If you enjoy taking photos, consider turning it into a hobby for stress release! Whether you've got a fancy DSLR or just a smartphone, you've got the ability to become an amateur photography. Check out a tutorial on YouTube about the features of your camera or phone, just to learn the basics, then start snapping. If you want to show off your work, you can create a free account on Instagram to share your photos with like-minded people, or even sell them as stock photography and make a little side cash.
Explore Your Neighborhood
Exploring your town or city can do multiple wonders for your body and mind! Not only do you get the benefit of being outdoors, exercising, and learning your way around, urban exploration also helps you keep abreast of the goings on near your home. You can even make it a scavenger hunt, by trying to find a restaurant you haven't noticed before, or finding an alternate route to walk home from the bus stop. The best part is, exploring your neighborhood is totally free!
The main benefit to carving out time for a hobby is that you force yourself to take time for just you. Not the kids, or the job, or the chores, but just you. If that last sentence makes you scoff, remember that adding any kind of extracurricular activity will have significant changes to your stress levels, which can drastically improve your health. Also, if we can be real here, you deserve to treat yourself well. Don't see hobbies as a luxury for those with unlimited free time or substantial incomes, and something that you'd never have time for. Instead, remember that you work hard, and your efforts have earned you at least an hour a week of downtime.
Try one of these five hobbies as a start and pay attention to your stress levels over the next few months. I bet you'll notice a decrease in irritation and an increase in your patience. Good luck!