Veterans and Hobbies

Updated: May 13

A hobby is defined as: "any activity that is done regularly by a person for leisure or pleasure." Finding pleasure in your day-to-day life is essential for everyone, but hobbies are not just a space-filler for empty gaps in your schedule. They are often the things we enjoy the most in this world and give meaning to our lives.


Transitioning from a high-stressful and physical job like the military and going into civilian life is already challenging enough. Often, veterans are struggling with PTSD, mental illness, or physical disability. Hobbies can be the distinct difference between being depressed and unmotivated to giving purpose and satisfaction. In many cases, they are even the difference between life and death.


Here are 20 great hobbies for military veterans:


1. Fishing

If you love to be outdoors, fishing could be the perfect hobby! It is also something that can be done virtually anywhere. If there is a body of water, most likely, you can fish in it. You can start with a cheap rod and tackle, some advice from your local sportsman's shop, and a fair deal of patience. Then progress from there as you learn. Most states even provide discounts for fishing licenses.


2. Camping or Hiking

Here is one for outdoor enthusiasts. Luckily, this hobby can be done as mild or extreme as you want, depending on how far you want it to go. This is a way to enjoy places away from everything and disconnect from modern technologies. It gets people outdoors into nature while presenting opportunities of being in the water, in a tent, and exploring the natural world in many different ways. Outdoor enthusiasts can find excitement, while people who have never tried it may enjoy it, too. Hiking and hunting can all be ways to enjoy being with friends and family to go exploring on excursions or solo treks. Set up a camping trip with friends and see how it goes.


3. Woodworking

Woodworking can be as simple as working a pocket knife from a stick. It can also be as complicated as creating a pristine bowl from a tree burl. There are a million little projects in between. It is working with your hands; like so many vets are used to creating something extraordinary from raw materials.


4. Work with your Hands and Doing Creative Art

While woodworking may be a form of art, it may not work for you. Veterans often battle with mental and physical challenges. To help get past this obstacle, be creative, and try working with hands. Art is an over-arching term that can include painting, needlepoint, writing, photography, taxidermy, and even coloring. Yes, they make coloring books for adults. They are pretty popular, too. It is expressive to think about patterns, create something, and bring it to realization. Pottery work is popular also. Glass blowing is an opportunity to create beautiful pieces, learn something new, and connect with others.


Poetry, reading aloud, or doing story slams are currently popular, where people share stories from their journeys. They nurture the story, share it, and find some peace knowing that sharing a part of themselves may help others while helping themselves. Art therapy is a therapeutic experience that uses art to help heal people.


All these art forms and types of handiwork can be healing. Art therapy is a real thing! Overall, art just makes everyone feel better! It gets you into "The Zone," a state of mind that is proven to make our brains feel healthier and happier. Do not be discouraged if you think you are a terrible artist. The point of doing it is to experience it! You do not have to be good. Being an artist is not something you are either born with. You have to practice! Give it a try; see what you think.


5. Brewing beer

Like beer? Are you interested in learning how to make your own? Double-check. Brewing could be a hobby for you! When talking about military veterans' hobbies, this one comes up pretty often; I do not know if it is because soldiers just love beer. In any case, it is a great way to learn a new skill that can maybe save or make you money down the road. If that does not pan out, well, you still get to drink the beer.


6. Weightlifting or CrossFit

Military veterans are always looking for ways to stay fit after service, and there is already a considerable percentage who have taken up lifting. Weightlifting or CrossFit is a fantastic sport to increase your health while also increasing your confidence and improving your appearance.


7. Running

Exercise is an excellent means of stress relief. Running with feet pounding on the ground helps people get out their repressed emotions. Create a goal to train with someone for a 5K run or maybe another similar goal. Fitness has positive effects like bringing down blood pressure, leveling out blood sugar, and keeping stress under control. Many veterans usually run on their own but meet with others who share their goals and make it their new hobby.


8. Yoga

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years for its physical, mental, and spiritual aspects. Military veterans can use yoga as an excellent tool to cope with PTSD in both psychological and physical improvements. Yoga has been deemed as one of the most popular hobbies used by many different foundations and programs to help veterans deal with a wide array of problems. Stress resilience and mental resilience are essential things that yoga teaches that military veterans will find great use in.


9. Playing an Instrument and Music

If you have not learned an instrument by now, you may feel like you have missed your opportunity, but you are wrong. It is never too late to learn how to play an instrument! While it is true that children usually pick up new skills more effortlessly, you can still become an expert guitarist at age 30, 40, 50, 60, and beyond. Learning to play an instrument is a stress-reliever, confidence-builder, and is just plain cool. Even the simplest of instruments, a hand drum, is accessible for veterans who are not very musically inclined. Drum circles and therapeutic drumming are great ways to enjoy this type of musical experience. Piano and other instruments can help relieve stress and build confidence as well. This also provides an expressive outlet for veterans who struggle with sharing their experiences.


10. Reading

Reading is a quiet activity, which is excellent for people with loud, active, and busy lives. Not only does it train your brain to think quicker and retain more information, but it helps transport you into an entirely different and new world. Whether your interest is sci-fi, romance, or history, everyone has something to gain from reading.

11. Quad or RC car racing

For those of you who are adrenaline junkies and want to get physical: Try quad racing. It is fast-paced, invigorating, and can help you get that competitive edge back. For those who are not as physically active, you can still race; but RC (radio-controlled) car racing lets you participate from a distance. To start quad racing, you should join the nearest All-Terrain Vehicle Association or ATVA; that will allow you to race in any ATVA sanctioned quad races and give you a good feel for the sport.


12. Water sports (If your weather allows)

Jet skiing can be expensive for the initial cost, but then you are just paying gas. It's a lot of fun! Additional water sports like sailing, spear-fishing, scuba diving, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and kite are a lot of fun too. Surfing is another sport also. The ocean can be used as a perfect healing remedy. Surfing is an excellent therapeutic way to promote mental and physical wellness. Several foundations use surfing as a way to help improve veteran's well-being.


13. Golf

Golf may not seem like it would alleviate stress for some by trying to hit a little ball into a little hole over 500 yards away. However, If you change your perspective; You are outdoors, getting exercise on some of the most beautiful terrain, drinking what? Your favorite alcoholic beverage while you are playing! (please be responsible). Additionally, the more you play, the better you get!


14. Fishing

Many people enjoy the outdoors! Some enthusiasts love to sit on the water without any outside noise or contact. It is actually very serene! One of the primary triggers for veterans with PTSD, constant stress, and anxiety, can be noise. Places of peace can provide healing with quiet time away from everyday chaos. Fishing is not about the end game. The goal is to find rest and relaxation away from everything. There is also camaraderie if you can find people to go fishing together. Fishing trips at a cabin by the water can be fun while exploring the wilderness. Find what works and give it a try.


15. Gardening

Playing in the dirt is fantastic for healing. Emotional and physical challenges cannot stop people from getting into the dirt to plant herbs or flowers. Soil therapy is very underrated as it provides people with treatment without a lot of work. Many community-based planting opportunities offer small gardens and plots to join. A veteran can gain the fruits of their labor by being able to eat the food that they grow. Knowing where the food came from and that a person's hands helped produce it is often therapeutic. The witnessing of growth can be something positive amid a veterans' challenges in recovery.


16. Archery

The sport of archery is the perfect way to strengthen both the mind and the body. Archery requires concentration, technique, discipline, focus, and attention, which are skills that military veterans have been trained and are accustomed to. This perfect sport that can make the transition into civilian life more manageable. As your skills improve and you notice your arrows being more consistently accurate, a new sense of fulfillment drives you and your confidence.


17. Shooting

The sport of shooting is very therapeutic. Concentrating on the fundamentals of shooting to hit a precise target can be very relaxing, along with taking your mental frustrations out on that target. There are actually health benefits to shooting!

  • Physical Discipline – To be able to control a firearm, it takes a bit of physical strength. Handguns significantly increase arm and wrist strength. When firing a pistol, it is essential to maintain control of the weapon after the recoil and a steady arm to ensure proper aim. Rifle firearms take a different arm and body strength as well as different firing techniques and positioning. Depending on the caliber's size, each requires the right strength and stance for adequate control. Along as stamina develops, better hand and eye coordination will follow with firearm practice.

  • Improves Eyesight – Shooting does not cure your eye problems. However, it can help exercise your eye's full capabilities. Modern technologies like TVs, computers, phones, and tablets, stress our eyes from daily activities. The eyeball uses muscles that automatically adjust to what we are looking at. If our faces are stuck on the screen, we are not using all of the muscles in our eyes. This can ultimately lead to imbalances. While shooting, you are looking downrange at the targets to acquire proper sight alignment with your weapon and the target. This allows your eyes the opportunity to use the different muscles located in your eyes, allowing you to exercise different muscles and help provide balance.

  • Mental Focus – When shooting, it takes a measurable amount of mental focus and discipline to perform well. Depending on what or where you are shooting, you will need to be aware of your surroundings (who is near or around you, and your targets). Additionally, it is essential to learn how to control adrenaline, which can interfere significantly. Military and law enforcement are continually training to maintain full control, especially under high adrenaline settings. They must ensure their abilities in controlling their weapon, ammo consumption, and knowing their target. Many accidental shootings or injuries are due to high adrenaline situations and failure to properly and safely operate their weapon. When at the range and before even getting your weapons out, take in your surroundings. Make a mental note of who is around and what possible distractions could take place.

  • Stress Relief – Many find the discipline and practice of shooting to be a stress reliever. When shooting, it is your time to clear your mind of your problems. Shooting is like your own personal meditation session, where you can focus on yourself and self-improvement. If you suffer from stress, it is time to go shooting and leave your problems at home.

18. Horseback Riding

While dogs have been known to be man's best friend, there is another animal in the world who has also been seen by our side than the horse. Equine horse therapy has gained massive popularity with veterans by dealing with their mental health issues like PTSD. Riding horses helps people keep active in an outdoor setting, build core physical strength, and develop deep bonds with beautiful creatures. Equine therapy programs are being promoted worldwide, which is becoming more accessible to veterans everywhere.


19. Cycling

Military veterans have often sustained injuries from their military service, and cycling provides benefits for their disabilities or inabilities. There are customized bikes, like tricycles, that are used to participate in races. Cycling is a fantastic way to boost strength, confidence, and reduce vulnerability to stress.


20. Skiing

Extreme sports, like skiing, positively use adrenaline to affect negative triggers. Skiing brings an adrenaline rush to the veteran and helps put them in a focused state of mind where they live in that specific moment. Several foundations of programs, like the Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports program, use skiing to help treat symptoms of combat PTSD in military veterans.


Finding pleasure in daily life is essential for people to feel and experience validation. Hobbies are not just something to fill time when there is nothing else to do. They can significantly enrich a person's life and bring some joy and peace amidst the challenges. Hobbies are a perfect way to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, leading to an increase in happiness. It is better to mitigate stress whenever and as much as possible. The best hobbies in the world are ones which people can enjoy either alone or with others.


References:

Indoored.com (2020). Best Sports & Hobbies for Military Veterans. Retrieved from https://indoored.com/sports-hobbies-for-military-veterans/


Lawrence S, De Silva M, Henley R. (2010). Sports and games for post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD007171. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007171.pub2.


Ley, Clemens et al. (2018). "In the Sport I Am Here": Therapeutic Processes and Health Effects of Sport and Exercise on PTSD." Qualitative health research vol. 28,3 (2018): 491-507. doi:10.1177/1049732317744533


Leidy, L. (2020). 12 Great Hobbies for Military Veterans. Our Military. Retrieved from https://www.ourmilitary.com/hobbies-for-military-veterans/


Pressman, Sarah D et al. (2009). "Association of enjoyable leisure activities with psychological and physical well-being." Psychosomatic medicine vol. 71,7 (2009): 725-32. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978


Shooting Range Industries LLC (2020). Shooting Range Therapy; Can Firing a Gun Relieve Stress, Provide Physical Strength Training & More? Retrieved from http://www.shootingrangeindustries.com/shooting-range-therapy-can-firing-a-gun-relieve-stress-provide-physical-strength-training-more/


Strive (2020). Veterans Can Try These 7 Great Hobbies to Release Stress. Retrieved from https://www.strivecares.com/veterans-can-try-these-7-great-hobbies-to-release-stress/

Image provided by Leidy, L. (2020). 12 Great Hobbies for Military Veterans. Our Military. Retrieved from https://www.ourmilitary.com/hobbies-for-military-veterans/

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