Hobbies In NYC To Help You Feel More Alive

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If you live in NYC and feel depressed, you are not alone. Even though the city is stuffed to the brim with people, it can feel like one of the loneliest placest on the planet.

And while there is always something fun going on, it’s common for people who live here to feel a lingering emptiness throughout the day.

So allow me to present one of the most underrated yet powerful tools you can use to counteract that ennui: hobbies.

Did you know that incorporating just one hobby into your life can actually help you cope with depression more effectively?

And engaging in these hobbies won’t just provide immediate relief from feeling depressed – it can also act as a protective mechanism and keep your symptoms at bay over the long-term.

And I know – if you have depression, getting out of bed in the morning is enough of a challenge. So the idea of trying out a hobby may feel nearly impossible. 

But I’m hoping this article will help you move past any doubt or discouragement you feel about finding a hobby, because it can truly be a game-changer for your wellbeing.

To be honest, I’m surprised that hobbies aren’t more openly talked about and encouraged when it comes to our mental health. Because in my experience, exploring new hobbies has been a key factor in helping me overcome my own personal struggles.

How Hobbies Changed My Life

I didn’t start out as an avid hobbyist. As a teenager, I didn’t have very positive self-esteem. I always felt like if I tried anything, I’d be no good at it anyway, so why even bother.

It wasn’t until college that I finally mustered up enough courage to try something that seemed kind of interesting to me. It started with knitting – my roommate at the time introduced me to it, and I was HOOKED! (no pun intended – although hooks are more for crocheters, but I digress.)

Then belly dancing became my thing, for YEARS. Then in my late 20s, learning the banjo.

I’ve also dabbled in yoga, sewing, painting, and countless other crafts. And since living in New York for the past 10 years, I’ve taken up biking, blogging, guitar, and most recently GARDENING!

For me, engaging in hobbies has helped provide a buffer during rough patches in my life, like difficult breakups, big life transitions, and disappointing job rejections.

But they also have also turned the monotony of daily existence into something meaningful and worthwhile – which is exactly what someone who lives in NYC and is feeling depressed needs.

So What Constitutes A Hobby?

According to the dictionary, “a hobby is an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.”

Did you get that?

FOR PLEASURE. 

What this means is – you don’t have to be good at a hobby. And you don’t need to be a certain age to start. You don’t need to monetize it, turn it into a side hustle, or put any pressure on yourself at all.

You just need to find some joy in it.

I say this because many people, who feel depressed or not, get caught up in the idea that if they start a new activity, they need to create a masterpiece. Or be some kind of prodigy who is an expert at their craft from the get-go.

Putting this kind of pressure on yourself creates an unrealistic expectation and can take all of the pleasure out of the experience. Try not to do that. Just focus on the act of engaging yourself in the thing.

A hobby truly helps bring the words “it’s about the journey, not the destination” to life.

And if you think you’re too old to try something new, guess what? YOU’RE WRONG!

If I’m not living proof, please know that my grandma started taking ballet in her 60s. It is NEVER too late to take on a new hobby.

How Can A Hobby Help You With Depression?

Hobbies Build Self Esteem

First and foremost, when you’re feeling depressed, you’re likely having negative thoughts about yourself, your own potential, and what the future might hold.

When you take that first step to try out a new hobby, you are connecting to a part of yourself that says, “I can do this.” Or at least, “Even if I don’t think I can do this, I can try.”

Hobbies Produce “Feel-Good” Chemicals In The Brain

This may seem obvious, but hobbies are fun. When you engage in something fun, like a hobby, you’re actually releasing chemicals in your brain that make you feel good, like dopamine and serotonin.

Those chemicals build on each other and create momentum to help you feel good throughout the day – not just when you’re engaging in your hobby.

But when you’re depressed, your brain is producing those chemicals at a lower rate while also producing extra stress hormones like cortisol. So finding a pleasurable activity you enjoy can help keep your brain chemistry a bit more balanced. 

Hobbies Encourage Social Interaction

NYC is a very transitory place. Friends come and go, and making plans to see others can become a logistical nightmare when subways aren’t running. Or if your pals live in different neighborhoods.

When you’re feeling depressed, it’s common to withdraw from your social circle. This reinforces the feelings of loneliness you may be experiencing, and creates a vicious cycle of isolation.

One way to counteract that loneliness, even when you don’t feel like it, is to be around other people.

And luckily, there are plenty of hobbies out there that involve human interaction, especially when you’re just trying one out for the first time. From art classes, to intramural sports, to taking a guitar lessons.

Not only do those hobbies force you to get out and socialize in NYC, but they can help you meet people and form new friendships. And who knows what those new friendships could lead to! And of course, having a good, quality friend does wonders for your mental health and wellbeing.

Hobbies Are A Healthy Distraction

Sure, watching hours of reality TV or scrolling through your phone can serve as a mindless distraction. But I wouldn’t call those hobbies. Even calling them activities would be a stretch.

For people with depression, what you might need in those moments when you just want to shut down your brain is something that will get you out of your head, and into the present moment.

I would argue that engaging in a hobby is one of the healthier forms of distraction out there. Because you’re not shutting down your brain – you’re lighting it up!

You’re distracting yourself from the negativity swirling around in your mind by focusing on the present moment. And you’re practicing new skills that will help you feel more hopeful about your abilities and fight off your depression.

Hobbies Can Heal Your Inner Child

One of the more unexpected yet powerful ways that my hobbies have influenced my own mental health journey, is that they’ve helped me get in touch with, and take care of my inner child.

What does this mean?

Your Inner Child is the part of you that has been holding onto subconscious beliefs about yourself and the world from a young age. A lot of your early childhood experiences shape how your inner child manifests itself when you’re an adult.

When your inner child has felt safe and seen, you have the belief that you can blossom into whoever you want to be as an adult.

It may be a sign that your inner child is still experiencing unresolved pain from your childhood when you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, self-consciousness, or shame as an adult. And it is likely that he/she/they could use some tending to.

One of the best ways to tend to your inner child is to give them the gift of pleasure through play, AKA a hobby. A hobby is just a fancy, grown-up way to describe playtime!

It’s pretty well known that as a child, play is normal, fun, even healthy for your development.

But adults need to play too. And when you allow yourself to play as an adult, you’re also taking care of the inner child in you that has been yearning to be seen.

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NYC Hobbies For People With Depression: Finding The Right One

If you’re looking to take on a new hobby as a way to cope with your depression but aren’t sure what to try or where to start, that’s okay. You’re starting by reading this article! There are a few different avenues you can take when brainstorming the possibilities. 

Access Your Inner Child

As I mentioned above, tending to your inner child is a powerful technique you can use to fight off depression. 

So think about yourself as a child. What did you like to do? Make arts and crafts? Play tag with your friends? Sing songs in the car? 

When I thought back to my childhood, I had this buried memory from PRESCHOOL, that during recess, I loved to scour the playground for flowers (which in reality, were weeds, but I digress). 

So I took that information and decided to start gardening this year. I grew tons of flowers on my windowsill. 

And unexpectedly, a few months later, my 21-year-old cat passed away. I was a mess. The only thing that got me out of bed in the morning during that time were the flowers I knew I had to care for if I wanted them to continue blooming.

I obviously didn’t know that having this hobby in place would help me cope with the depression I felt in those initial weeks after Squiggles died. But I’m grateful it was there.

Connect With Who You Are

Before reading this section, take a moment to center yourself. Take a few breaths.

Check in with your body. Check in with your gut. Close your eyes, and see if any images, thoughts, or ideas rise to the surface. Take your time.

If something comes up, take note. See how it feels in your body as you explore that idea.

Do you experience any kind of flutter in your heart, or even a slight opening in your chest? Perhaps your shoulders relax a bit when an idea pops into your mind.

And if nothing happens, don’t sweat it.

You can also go through this list, and as you do, pay attention to what’s happening on the inside. Your gut is telling you what you may be interested in.

  1. Reading
  2. Biking
  3. Cooking
  4. Baking
  5. Jigsaw Puzzles
  6. Flower Arranging
  7. Dog Walking
  8. Jewelry Making
  9. Painting
  10. Tennis
  11. Knitting
  12. Photography
  13. Running
  14. Dance Classes
  15. Learning an Instrument
  16. Singing
  17. Gardening
  18. Horseback Riding
  19. Improv 
  20. Pottery
  21. Writing Poetry
  22. Blogging
  23. Coloring
  24. DIY crafts
  25. Woodworking

There are tons of hobbies out there, so if another one comes to mind that isn’t on this list, by all means, listen to what you are trying to tell yourself! Connect with who you are.

Look for inspiration

Who are you inspired by? Maybe it’s a friend who ran a half-marathon, or a musician you’re a big fan of (any Swifties out there?), or someone you follow on instagram who posts about their yoga journey. Maybe it’s even a character from a movie who is great at martial arts.

If there is anyone out there that you’ve noticed doing something cool, and thought to yourself, “man, I wish I could ____________ (insert activity here),” guess what? YOU CAN!

You may not be as far along as that person you look up to, but DO NOT let that discourage you. Use those feelings of admiration to fuel your own motivations, and get inspired.

Collaborate with Friends

Do you know anyone out there who has a hobby that they absolutely love? Talk to that person! Learn how they got into it, and if you’re interested, ask how they recommend you get started, or if you can join them next time.

Or maybe you have a friend that is in the same boat as you – wants to find a hobby but doesn’t know what to do or where to start. Brainstorm together on different classes you can take and make a plan to go together. Hold each other accountable.

Acknowledge If You Are Overanalyzing and Start

For people with depression, it is common to feel completely paralyzed when it comes to making a decision because you don’t want to fail. Or you want everything to be perfect before you start.

If you find yourself overanalyzing how to get started, simply acknowledge it. Know you aren’t alone in it. Then let it go.

Notice if you’re spending a lot of time finding the perfect activity for you, or doing too much research on the best classes offered, or ordering the highest quality gear. We all get caught up in those details, but don’t let it stop you from starting.

If something out there is calling your name, just go for it. The worst that can happen is you’ll try it and gain the knowledge that it isn’t for you, then move onto something else.

Eventbrite or Course Horse are great places to browse classes that may be starting soon. And, below is a list of some of my favorite places in NYC that can help you find a hobby.

Hobby Recommendations In NYC

Art Classes:

Brooklyn Museum

Creatively Wild Art Studio

Music Classes:

Keylab

Voice Academy NYC

Brooklyn Guitar

Crafts:

Knitty City

Little Shop of Crafts

Dance:

Dance Church

DivaDance

Sports:

Play NYC

Greenpointers

Gardening:

Florescent

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Poetry:

NY Public Library

Writer’s Studio

Acting:

The People’s Improv

Brooklyn Comedy Collective

If these places are too much of a trek, just do some good ol’ googling. You may have to try different word combos and do a little digging, so give yourself some time – 30 minutes should be plenty.

And if getting started is something you struggle with, therapy can help. I work with a lot of individuals who need a little extra help getting unstuck. More info about my services can be found here.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to like and share it below.

And let me know in the comments – what hobby sounds most interesting to you? Or, is there anything you always wanted to do a as a kid but never got the chance to? Please share – what hobby do you feel most inspired to try after reading this article?

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Hi! I'm Paige

therapist williamsburg brooklyn

I’m a Licensed Psychotherapist based in NYC. 

I write about mental wellbeing, personal growth, and the never-ending journey towards self-fulfillment. Sign up below to get notified when I post a new article.

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