About this sample
About this sample
Words: 1844 |
10 min read
Published: Aug 4, 2023
Words: 1844|Pages: 4|10 min read
While many studies have been conducted on the impact of healthy behaviors, such as diet and exercise, little research has been done on the physical and mental benefits of leisure activities. Leisure activity or “hobby” can be broadly defined as a healthy and productive way to take your mind off of daily stress or negative emotions. This may include different types of hobbies such as painting, traveling, reading, or sports.
There are several different types of stress we experience throughout our lives. Acute stress is the response we have toward an immediate perceived threat, while chronic stress is a continually stressful aspect in our lives. Both of these forms are what we would consider “bad stress”. These forms of stress can be particularly damaging to individuals that are high in negative affectivity, or neuroticism. Another form of stress is eustress or “good stress'. Eustress is the type of stress we feel when we experience excitement or fulfillment (Branson, V., Turnbull, D., Dry, M., & Palmer, E., 2019). Partaking in a hobby promotes eustress as it allows the individual to learn something new or set goals for themselves regarding their interests and passions.
A hobby can be seen as an effective way to cope with stress because it is a stress moderator. Stress moderators modify how stress is experienced by the individual through the use of personal and circumstantial factors (Taylor, 2018). Partaking in a hobby is believed to be an effective way to reduce stress and increase life satisfaction, particularly because it increases positive social interactions (Zawadzki, M. J., Smyth, J. M., & Costigan, H. J., 2015). Social interactions provide a variety of resources that individuals can use to cope with stress in a healthy way, as well as enhance social life and improve communication. Social support is a key factor in reducing stress and lowering the likelihood of illness. Because of the social benefits, participating in leisure activities is associated with higher levels of positive psychosocial states and lower levels of depression and negative effect (Pressman, S. D., Matthews, K. A., Cohen, S., Martire, L. M., Scheier, M., Baum, A., & Schulz, R., 2009).
Hobbies are beneficial in preventing psychological “burnout”. “Burnout” is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress (Goel, A. D., Akarte, S. V., Agrawal, S. P., & Yadav, V., 2016). A work-life imbalance or lack of social support increase the risk of burnout. An optimistic nature can help people cope more effectively with stress and reduce an individual’s risk for illness. Optimism produces active and persistent coping efforts, which improves long-term prospects for physical and mental health (Taylor, 2018). Individuals who are lonely or socially isolated typically have poorer health and poorer health habits (Taylor, 2018). Neuroticism accompanied with social isolation is an especially dangerous combination for health, as it may cause individuals to express extreme distress and discomfort.
Previous studies have shown the effectiveness of hobbies on physical health. One study in Norway found that those who engage in physical leisure activities for at least 20 minutes a week are less susceptible to fatigue (Eriksen, W., & Bruusgaard, D., 2004). The participants who reported engagement in physical leisure activities showed a reduced risk of persistent fatigue 15 months later. The researchers also found that the type of activity the participants chose to partake in had no impact on the results of the study. Research has also shown that partaking in enjoyable leisure activities is associated with lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, body mass index, and perceptions of better physical function (Pressman, S. D., Matthews, K. A., Cohen, S., Martire, L. M., Scheier, M., Baum, A., & Schulz, R., 2009).
The purpose of this project was to examine the effectiveness of leisure activities on physical health and mental health as a means of coping with stress. Another purpose of this project was looking at the impact that hobbies have on social interaction and developing relationships. Leisure has been hypothesized to buffer the damaging effects of stress. For the purpose of this study, the participant chose golf as her preferred form of leisure activity. Golf helps to alleviate stress by taking place in an outdoor setting where you can interact with others, which can help improve your communication skills and build lasting relationships. Playing golf can also promote heart health, brain stimulation, reduce stress, and, because it is not a contact sport, injury is unlikely. We anticipate that individuals who engage in more frequent enjoyable activities will experience less distress during times of stress as compared with those who infrequently engage in these activities.
The participant is a twenty-one year old, female undergraduate student at Santa Clara University. The participant is from San Jose, California and is currently a psychology major. She is 5’5” inches tall, and weighs 106 pounds (BMI: 17.6). Prior to this study, she is in normal health with no record of chronic illness. She is a graduating senior with a nineteen-unit course load, as well as a part-time job as a restaurant server every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The participant reported feelings of stress and time pressure on a daily basis. She also reported eating one meal a day, on average, as well as constant feelings of fatigue. Outside of work and school, the participant reported being insufficiently active, giving very minimal time and effort toward exercise. Prior to the intervention, the participant was prompted to complete the Perceived Stress Scale and the Five-Factor Model Test. The participant scored a total of 26 out of 40 on the Perceived Stress Scale indicating that the participant has moderate/high stress levels. The participant also scored high in neuroticism with a score of 67 out of 100 on the Five Factor Model Test. Neuroticism refers to the tendency to experience negative emotions. Those who score high on neuroticism tend to be emotionally reactive (3).
In order to initiate the participant’s goal of lowering her stress levels, she began to play golf as a new hobby. This intervention was conducted and administered by the participant over the span of seven weeks during the months of October and November. The participant made an effort to go golfing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at Los Lagos Golf Course. On Monday and Wednesday, the participant would play through nine holes of golf with two of her coworkers, without the use of a cart or bag carrier, from 2pm to 6pm. On Friday, the participant would practice on the driving range and putting green for approximately two hours. The intervention aimed at measuring the amount of time the participant spent on the activity, as well as the distance walked per day.
During weeks one and two of this study, we collected baseline data, which allowed us to see our participant’s average amount of activity prior to introduction the intervention from September 23rd to October 6th. During weeks three to seven, we collected data with the implementation of our intervention to see how it impacted the participant’s average amount of activity. For this study, the variable we are observing to account for “amount of activity” is the participant’s distance walked per day.
Our baseline data indicates that the mean amount of activity prior to our intervention was 1.29 miles/day with a standard deviation of 0.85 (see Figure 1 in the appendix). Our intervention data shows a mean of 2.79 miles/day with a standard deviation of 1.57 (see Figure 2 in the appendix). Based on this information we can see that, through the implementation of a hobby, there was approximately a 1.5 mile increase in average distance walked. At the end of the five week intervention, we had the participant retake the Perceived Stress Scale to see how the intervention affected her overall stress levels. The participant scored a total of 16 out of 40, indicating moderate stress.
For this project, the behavioral intervention involved implementing a hobby into the participant’s weekly schedule in an effort to increase physical activity and reduce stress. Data obtained between weeks three and seven showed that there was a considerable increase in average amount of physical activity, measured in miles walked per day. Therefore, we can conclude, based on our results, that the implementation of a physical hobby is successful in increasing physical activity. Comparing our baseline data to our intervention data, we can see that there was a 116% increase in physical activity.
The intervention was successful because the participant was able to implement their hobby into their daily routine every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Another factor that increased the success of the intervention was the social aspect. Every Monday and Wednesday, the participant would play nine holes of golf with her coworkers. When the participant made plans to golf with others, she felt more committed and was much less likely to try to cancel and was also more likely to stay out for a longer period of time. This commitment provided the participant with more motivation to fit the intervention into her weekly routine. Prior to this intervention, the participant had never spent time with her coworkers outside of work. This intervention gave the participant the opportunity to connect with others with similar interests and form stronger relationships. The participant reported higher levels of enjoyment when golfing with others as opposed to golfing alone.
Future research is necessary to be able to focus more on the long-term psychological benefits of leisure activities. This particular study focused primarily on the physical and social benefits of starting a hobby. While the participant did report an overall decrease in stress levels from week one to week seven, this is not sufficient enough evidence to conclude that leisure activity is a successful means of coping with stress. A confounding variable was that the second PSS was conducted during the participant's Thanksgiving break, which means that her 10-point decrease in stress level could have been due to this factor and not the intervention itself. In a future study, I would like to focus more on the psychological benefits of hobbies in regard to stress and coping. I would also like to compare the effects that different types of hobbies have on mental health.
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