Every Thursday afternoon, I grab my yarn and knitting needles and join some of my colleagues at JAN for our “Yarn Club.” A mix of knitters and crocheters gather together during our lunch hour and get to work. While working on our own individual projects, we chat about our work or home lives, and sometimes even delve into deeper topics like religion or politics. Most times though, we spend the hour laughing — a lot. Regardless of the topic, this hour has become something I look forward to every week. Not only has it provided the chance to get to know the group members on a more personal level, but it is truly a therapeutic activity.

There is something about working with my hands and focusing my attention more on this art, and less on my daily stressors, that reenergizes me for the rest of the workday. Other group members have expressed the positive benefits they also feel from working on their individual projects in a shared group setting. This made me think — if more workplaces formed hobby groups, the work environment may be filled with many more relaxed employees.

JAN’s cognitive/neurological team frequently fields situations in which stress plays a significant role in the productivity of an employee with a disability. For instance, many employers share experiences of employees requesting an accommodation of a “less stressful environment.” Other times, we hear of employees having poor attendance or needing to take leave as an accommodation because workplace stress has exacerbated their pre-existing conditions. Although there are accommodations that can help relieve stress to a degree, such as allowing additional breaks to practice stress reduction activities, providing a quiet work area, or using environmental sound machines, additional solutions may be necessary to continue the feeling of relaxation throughout the work day. While forming hobby groups is not a formal accommodation, creating a workplace environment that fosters these type of activities can contribute overall to employee productivity and job satisfaction.

Knitting is certainly not the only hobby that can help relieve stress throughout the work day. Depending on the space and time available, all sorts of interest groups could be formed, including those that involve movement like walking, yoga, or martial arts. Other groups might focus more on hobbies like reading, scrapbooking, model building, or a new personal favorite — adult coloring books! There are many research studies linking physical activity to increased mental health, lower levels of tension, elevated and stabilized mood, better sleep, and improved self-esteem. But how about hobbies as a way to relieve stress?

According to one study that examined the bodily reactions of 115 men and women while performing leisure activities/hobbies, virtually all participants reported lower stress levels and had a lower heart rate during these activities compared to rest of their day. The participants reported that they were 34% less stressed, 18% less sad, and their heart rate dropped approximately 3%. Maybe the most important aspect of the study was that it showed that the positive effects carried over after the participant stopped the activity. This important piece may link hobbies to improved health over the span of a lifetime (Zawadzki, Smyth, & Costigan, 2015).

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a way to reduce stress throughout your work day, or even improve your overall health, why not consider creating a hobby group? Whether this means revisiting those old passions you forgot you enjoy or trying something you’ve never done before, hobby groups are a great way of getting to know your colleagues and tackle the rest of your day with a smile on your face!

References:

Fitzpatrick, K. (2016). Why adult coloring books are good for you. Retrieved from
http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/06/health/adult-coloring-books-popularity-mental-health/

Zawadzki, M. J., Smyth, J. M., & Costigan, H. J. (2015). Real-Time associations between engaging in leisure and daily health and well-being. Retrieved from http://www.ucmerced.edu/sites/ucmerced.edu/files/documents/zawadzki-paper-2015.pdf