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6 Ways Your Hobbies Can Help Boost Your Health

Banish insomnia, chronic pain, and more.

Great news! All the things you love to do — listening to music, reading, and gardening — are also a boon for your well-being. Read on to find out how your hobbies help even more than you thought!

Putting pen to paper boosts immunity by 47 percent.

University of Texas scientists found that when folks vented about their worries in a “frustration journal” for 15 minutes a day, they were up to 47 percent more likely to stay healthy for a month. Why? Writing about troubles stimulates the immune system so it churns out more infection-fighting white blood cells.

Sidestep insomnia with arts and crafts.

Whether you prefer painting pretty nature scenes outside your window or tucking family snapshots and mementos into a scrapbook, arts and crafts hobbies deliver sweet relief from insomnia. Any type of repetitive hand motions, like those that naturally occur while crafting, soothe the brain’s anxiety center. And that’s something Saint Louis University School of Medicine scientists say helps you drift off in just 15 minutes and enjoy a deeper, more restorative night’s rest.

And gab! Turns out calling a friend helps you sleep better. An Australian study found connecting with folks who make you feel supported tames stress so you can spend more time in the deeper stages of sleep and awaken feeling refreshed.

Shed weight faster with Woman’s World.

Great news: Kicking back with a health-savvy magazine — like Woman’s World — in your downtime has already put you on the path to a slimmer you. South Dakota State University researchers say reading articles offering smart diet and fitness advice helps you lose weight an impressive 60 percent faster. Researchers credit health-focused articles with reminding you of your end goal, boosting your motivation to eat right and move more.

Or scratch a lotto ticket! Have a penchant for picking up a lottery ticket every now and then? Try playing a $1 scratch-off before ordering in from your favorite restaurant or sitting down to a plate of lasagna. University of Arizona scientists say eating a half-size portion of your meal and playing a game of chance makes you feel as satisfied as if you’d eaten a full-size serving. That’s because lotto tickets light up the same reward center of the brain as food.

Calm GI discomfort with gardening.

Tending to houseplants or getting fall bulbs in the ground (it’s the perfect time of year!) is a fun way to ward off the digestive upset that can happen as summer’s lighter fare gives way to richer fall dishes. British researchers say soil releases a beneficial probiotic that ramps up your levels of digestive enzymes and stomach acid in 15 minutes. This helps the body better absorb carbohydrates before they ferment and cause GI hassles like bloat, gas or stomach cramps.

Or stretch your legs! Enjoy regular strolls around the block? Smart move: Doing so for 20 minutes a day cuts your risk of constipation by 52 percent, University of Washington scientists say, since exercise ups production of the GI-regulating hormone serotonin.

Play away pain with a fun game.

If you’re a fan of unwinding with a game on your smartphone, you’re in luck: Research confirms it not only whisks away stress, it erases aches too! Video games like Bejeweled or Tetris that immerse you in a virtual world alter how your brain responds to pain signals, University of California scientists say, which significantly increases your pain tolerance in as little as 15 minutes.

Or gaze at a painting! Does meandering through local art galleys make your heart sing? Then hang a print (like a replica of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night) in your home. Italian scientists say admiring art lessens pain.

Banish brain fog by listening to music.

When you hear a song you love, it’s hard not to smile. It’s no wonder listening to music is one of the most popular pastimes! Now research proves it does more than perk up your mood: It also sharpens your focus. Michigan State University scientists say listening to your favorite song for three minutes activates nerves within the brain that improve concentration even faster and more effectively than coffee.

Or try a new recipe! Folks are baking more than ever these days, and that’s good for concentration. University of Texas scientists say whipping up new recipes produces a brain chemical that cuts your risk of memory blips by 50 percent.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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