At the very heart of it, living well is as unique as the individual. What makes one person feel amazing, won’t work for the next person. Perhaps that’s the reason that so many of us feel frustrated at our inability to follow cookie cutter gym routines or the latest diet plans or self-care tips.
It’s no surprise that research has shown that those who engage in hobbies that they feel passionately about are likely to feel less stressed and happier than those who don’t. Plus engaging in hobbies can be a great way to get moving and find a like-minded community; both things that can further boost our wellbeing.
No one knows that better than Sammy, a 36-year-old project co-ordinator, who’s weekly exercise includes running, jumping and crawling across fields. But this is no standard bootcamp workout. Far from it. This is Live Action Role Play and Sammy is V, Daughter of the Bloodmoon — Jarl of the people, who takes no prisoners.
Live Action Role Playing or LARPing is a fantasy role-playing game in which participants dress in costume, use props, and act out roles.
“You could die 60 times a night, you could be a princess that gets saved…no one night is ever the same” says Sammy “That’s what I love. It definitely gets your adrenaline pumping because you don’t know what the outcome could be.”
Sammy’s love for LARPing is palpable and its easy to see why losing yourself in the midst of battle could be beneficial for your mental health.
“It’s like a real life video game, plus community, plus exercise” she says “It’s an amazing feeling. It’s euphoric. There’s nothing like it”.
For Sammy, LARPing is somewhere where she can escape the stress of day-to-day life and find an outlet for any frustration she might be feeling.
“You let out all your angst from the week” she says. “No excel. No word. It’s just me, my mace on the battlefield”.
“I can’t guarantee if I’ll live or die, but I guarantee that I’m leaving with a smile on my face” she says.
The positive effect on Sammy’s happiness is clear to see. But the benefits of her passion for LARPing go beyond mental health.
“It’s quite the workout!” she says. Physical hobbies such as LARPing can help us increase our step count, build muscle and increase cardiovascular fitness. All of which can be beneficial for our health.
“That’s why I love it” says Sammy “it’s hidden exercise.”
“It’s very physical. Muscles you didn’t even know you had will hurt tomorrow”.
Not only that but studies have shown that if we’re engaging in exercise we enjoy, we’re likely to be more motivated to improve our fitness. This was the case for Sammy:
“When I first started it showed how unfit I was” she says. “I wanted to be better, so I started to eat better and live better”.
“Week after week I found that I was fighting better. I was getting fitter” she says.
Someone else who can attest to the importance of finding what makes you feel good, no matter how unexpected is Garth, a 44 year old customer service agent who found a unique way to destress.
“Customer service is stressful” says Garth “I get yelled at quite a lot at work…I just wanted to yell out at the world”.
Studies have shown that stress is no joke; in fact long term stress can affect both our mental and physical health putting us at risk of digestive problems, anxiety, depression, headaches, heart disease and stroke amongst others.
There’s plenty of information out there about how to lower our stress levels but, ultimately, we have to find what works for us, no matter how out there that solution might be. And Garth is no different.
“Screaming out to your favourite metal song is a great way to release” he says “to just vent it all out in one good scream…in one good song lyric…” he smiles “It’s a great release for me".
Whilst metal music might not sound like everyone’s idea of a relaxing time, Garth finds that listening to metal is almost meditative, helping him connect with his emotions and deal with frustration.
“I definitely lose myself in music” he says. “The beat of your drums, you sync up to your heartbeat. The guitars come in and take you to the next part of the journey. Then the lyrics come in and they lead you to feeling happy or sad, whichever emotion you want to feel”.
Meditation, whether to metal music or complete silence is proven to be hugely beneficial for our mental health. Psychologist Emily Toner says “If I could prescribe meditation like we prescribe medicine, I would. The positive effects are massive".
Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, control anxiety, reduce the risk of memory loss, increase attention span and even decrease our blood pressure and help us increase our emotional intelligence.
“It’s had such a benefit for me throughout my life, to explore my emotions and my feelings” he says.
“A lot of the time when I listen to a track, it can change my mood completely. Sometimes it’s just good to vent”.