Gift cards are great, and almost everyone can use a subscription to a streaming service. But if you want to spend more time in the new year on activities that will improve your brain and body, consider stacking your holiday wish list with items and experiences to help you sharpen skills and pursue passions beyond binge-watching. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Maybe the last time you played a musical instrument was a member of your middle school band. Or perhaps you picked up a pawn shop guitar years ago but never learned to play. No matter what your musical pedigree, reintroducing or adding the hands-on hobby to your life has multiple benefits. Some of the well-documented advantages of learning an instrument as a kid include improved academic performance and practicing patience and persistence. But research shows there are plenty of perks to learning to play an instrument as an adult as well, including enhanced brain health, cognition, hearing functioning, and a general sense of well-being, according to MarketWatch.
If your school days are decades behind you and you’re anxious about taking face-to-face lessons as a full-fledged adult, there are still plenty of ways to refresh rusty playing skills or start from scratch with a new instrument. For example, there are a plethora of guitar lessons available online, but they aren’t all playing the same tune.
To choose the site that best suits your style and needs, read reviews, and consider signing up for some free trials. That way, you can take some lessons before adding your favorite online lesson subscription service to a holiday wishlist.
Studies show regular exercise carries many of the same benefits as learning a musical instrument. That’s because consistent exercise routines fuel the brain with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that aids memory, learning, focus, concentration, and understanding, according to Entrepreneur.
There are so many options that you could devote your entire gift list to fitness-themed gear. And there are gifts available at every price point. For example, you could request anything from an annual gym membership to basic workout equipment — dumbbells, a mat, and a resistance band or two — to get a strong start on a home-based exercise routine. When whittling down your wish list, just consider what might motivate you more.
Do you have a limited recipe repertoire or, worse, rely on take-out and frozen food for sustenance? If that’s the case, maybe you should add cooking classes, meal delivery kits, or kitchen gear and gadgets to your wish list this year.
Like the other hobbies on this list, cooking can be good for your body and mind alike. While that might seem like a tall order for an activity many think of as a household chore, research supports a full menu of benefits. For example, cooking can help you dictate the ingredients that go into your meals and give you better portion control since you serve yourself and can pack up any leftovers for lunch the next day.
Studies show cooking and baking can also be good for your mental health because it gives you a daily dash of creativity that boosts happiness and relaxation, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The act of cooking can also be a mindfulness exercise when approached in a certain way, focusing on the present moment in much the same manner as meditation.
So if you’re looking for ways to improve your physical health, your mealtime mood, your mental acuity, or all three, consider some of these ideas when penning your holiday wish list.