Bipolar disorder is generally characterized by manic highs and depressive lows. While your mood swings are usually treated with a combination of medications and therapy, there are some other ways you can help manage your symptoms.
Scheduling hobbies and other activities that you enjoy throughout the week can give you the additional structure you need to effectively control your bipolar disorder. It can also provide you with a sense of purpose, and this is always helpful in preventing bipolar disorder mood swings.
Bipolar Disorder and Benefits of Hobbies
A Norwegian study found that men and women diagnosed with bipolar disorder experienced fewer episodes of depression when they were actively engaged in one or more hobbies. The sense of accomplishment and purpose you get when you are doing something that you enjoy can help prevent depressive thoughts from sneaking in.
Participating in hobbies can also improve cognitive function, and this can be crucial when you are trying to “think” your way through a manic high.
Hobbies can even help you improve your social skills, since they make great “ice breakers”. It is a conversation topic that you can easily engage others in. If you are starting to have depressive thoughts, simply interacting with friends and even strangers can help keep the mood swings at bay.
According to practicing psychologist Andrea Corn, any hobby can be beneficial to a person with bipolar disorder. There are not any set guidelines, only choose ones that you are interested in, and enjoy.
If the hobby isn’t fun and enjoyable, you won’t get any of the benefits that will help you manage your bipolar disorder.
Hobbies for Bipolar Disorder
There is a seemingly endless list of hobbies that can be beneficial in managing bipolar disorder symptoms. All you have to do is participate in the ones that interest you.
Research has shown that exercise is mentally and psychically beneficial. Aerobic workouts can help you release some of the pent-up energy you feel during your manic highs, and provide a much needed mental boost when you are dealing with depressive lows.
If your main goal is to fight off depression you’ll want to choose activities that require continuous movement and concentration. Swimming, walking, Yoga and Pilates are a few examples of exercises that are ideal since they can also relieve stress.
You should plan on spending 20 minutes a day exercising. This will give you the structure you need, along with producing positive mental and physical results. Some bipolar disorder suffers have noted that as their body becomes lean and toned their feelings of depression lessen.
Most mental health care experts recommend starting with a workout plan that is simple and affordable. If you start off with an activity that is too difficult, you could experience feelings of inadequacy and frustration which can lead to manic episodes.
Some easy exercises that will expend energy without causing mood swings include,
- Take your dog for a walk. Not only will your dog appreciate the exercise, it is also an effective way for you to burn off some excess energy. As an added bonus you get to enjoy the fresh air, and spend some time with your furry best friend.
- Join an aerobics class. High intensity aerobics will not only help you get in shape, it can also improve some of your bipolar disorder symptoms. During the workout your body releases endorphins, and these “feel good” hormones can help prevent depression. Best of all it can also improve your quality of sleep at night, which is a frequent problem among bipolar disorder sufferers.
- Practice yoga daily. Yoga is an effective way to reduce stress and aid in relaxation. This can be especially beneficial during a bipolar disorder mood swing, and might even help you prevent one.
A manic episode is a great time for you to unleash your creativity. It will help you channel your excess energy positively. Some people find that cleaning out a garage, closet or storage shed is a good outlet for their energy, but this doesn’t apply to everyone.
If organizing and cleaning your space doesn’t appeal to you, there are other ways you can be creative and manage your bipolar disorder.
- Find inspiration in music. Research has conclusively shown that music can have therapeutic effects on the listener. Consider learning a new instrument or resume playing an old one. Scheduling time each day for practice will also provide you with some of the structure needed to control bipolar disorder symptoms.
- Try writing. Even if you will never be a published author, writing is still beneficial. It is an excellent way for you to organize thoughts and ideas during manic periods, and can improve concentration. Set aside time each day to write, usually in the morning or evening is best.
- Start a garden. Growing a garden is a common pastime, and it’s an ideal hobby if you have bipolar disorder. It takes a lot of time and effort, which is perfect when you have excess energy. The satisfaction and pride you feel when you watch your garden can effectively prevent depressive mood swings.
- Create arts and crafts. A popular hobby that you will find plenty of inspiration for is “crafting”. Creating something unique will fill up your time, and give you something that you can be proud of. This boost to your self-esteem can prevent feelings of depression, and using your manic energy to be creative is always positive.
These are only a few examples of some hobbies that are ideal if you are looking for innovative ways to manage your symptoms.1
Bipolar Disorder and Multiple Hobbies
Don’t be afraid to take up more than one hobby. Some hobbies can only be done during certain times of the year or may be more costly while others might not occupy as much of your free time as needed and can be done at your convenience.
In the winter a garden won’t take up much of your time, and writing in the morning or evening still leaves you with most of the day to tend to your work and other responsibilities. Knitting, sewing and similar crafts are other great hobbies to consider adding to your schedule, though it is also important to leave yourself with some free time. While you do need structure throughout the day, you don’t want to try to do too much. Scheduling too many hobbies could trigger a mood swing, instead of preventing one.
You can expel excess energy in a positive way, and reduce feelings of lethargy during depressive episodes by increasing your level of activity. While this will help you manage your bipolar disorder symptoms, it is still important that you follow your prescribed treatment plan.
Hobbies are only a tool you can use to help control the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, not treat them. If you are having problems with mood swings and other bipolar disorder symptoms, it is important that you speak with your primary mental health care specialist.