Mental Health Benefits of Collecting as a Hobby

Understanding Mental Health: A Exhaustive Guide

Mental Health Benefits of Collecting as a Hobby

We all collect things - it’s a natural human inclination. Since the beginning of humanity’s existence, we’ve been collecting things. Pottery, books, paintings, t-shirts, the wide world of collecting has something that calls to…well, almost anyone. But why do we collect things?

According to psychology experts, humans collect things because it can lead to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Collecting as a hobby does more than just trigger these happy chemicals in the brain. It also serves as a powerful form of self-expression, self-confidence, and life enjoyment, not to mention creating a social connection between fellow collectors.

Breaking Down Collecting as a Form of Stress Relief

Science supports the stress-relieving power of engaging in enjoyable hobbies, including collecting. Engaging in such activities has been shown to help reduce stress and potentially lower cortisol levels - the hormone produced during stressful stimuli.

Many hobbyists use their collecting as a healthy form of escapism
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Many hobbyists use their collecting as a healthy form of escapism. They find immense pleasure in leaving the world around them as they dive into the world of their hobby. Often, hobbyists seek out knowledge about each piece in their collection or learn the history and social connections of objects in their collection. Collectors may find themselves swept away in the story of how a vase made it from China to the United States in the 16th Century or find themselves absorbed in the origins of Pokemon.

Collecting allows participants to form a narrative about their collection and instill a sense of control. It gives you a space to organize, examine and alter at your leisure. That sense of control alone can reduce stress, stimulating endorphins in your brain to create a feeling of happiness and contentment.


How can collecting reduce stress?

As long as someone finds collecting enjoyable, it can reduce stress. This is because collecting provides a healthy way to trigger the brain's pleasure-seeking parts. When the medial forebrain bundle triggers endorphins, stress hormones like cortisol are reduced.

Is there any scientific evidence to support the stress-reducing benefits of collecting?

Yes, scientific evidence does support the stress-reducing benefits of collecting. Neuroscientist Shirley M. Mueller, M.D. explores the relationship in her book, Inside the Head of a Collector: Neuropsychological Forces at Play. Mueller and other experts in the field conclude that participating in an enjoyable hobby - including collecting - helps reduce stress.

Can collecting be a form of therapy for individuals with anxiety disorders?

While collecting can provide a healthy distraction and encourage social interaction for individuals with anxiety, it's important to note that it should not replace professional therapy or treatment for individuals with anxiety disorders. The benefits of collecting may vary from person to person, and it is essential to seek professional help when needed.

The Powerful Connection Between Collecting and Mindfulness

What exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness encompasses the act of being present and aware in the current moment, experiencing and accepting your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations at that moment. Collecting provides a natural encouragement for mindfulness, as it encourages the mental focus of the hobbyist. In addition, it roots the collector in the present moment as they hunt for the next piece, work to organize, or simply as they admire their collection.

Mindfulness - whether practiced through collecting
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Mindfulness - whether practiced through collecting or otherwise - can produce a remarkable calming effect on practitioners. According to the University of Washington, mindfulness can provide as powerful calming effects as antidepressants and reduce an individual’s stress response.

You can experience a sense of inner peace through mindfulness interwoven with collecting. Many hobbyists unknowingly use organizing and carefully cleaning their collections as a source of mindfulness because they entirely focus only on what they are doing at that moment. Becoming wholly aware and focused on the grooves of a rare coin or the scent of a 1st Edition book can ground collectors in the present, providing respite from the worries of their day. In these moments, you can achieve a “zen” state of calm.


What is mindfulness, and how can it benefit mental health?

Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment, becoming aware of your body’s sensations, thoughts, and emotions, and accepting them without judgment or thought.

Practicing mindfulness reduces stress responses in individuals and can help anxiety sufferers manage their symptoms. It also can improve your ability to focus and increase mental performance.

How can collectors practice mindfulness while pursuing their hobby?

Collectors can practice mindfulness by focusing on their physical and emotional connection as they engage with their collection. Mindful movement, mindful breathing, and body scanning are mindfulness techniques that work well with collecting. For example, you can speak to yourself out loud or internally describe an object in your collection, physically touch objects in your collection, or quietly observe your collection while taking deep, slow breaths - all of these actions can create a sense of mindfulness.

Can mindfulness help individuals with depression?

Yes, studies indicate that mindfulness can help individuals suffering from depression. In addition, Mindfulness can help depression sufferers reduce their depression and teach them to accept and detach from depression.

How Collecting Can Boost Self-Esteem

Self-expression, creativity, and pride all work together to build a healthy sense of self-esteem in an individual. And you can achieve all three through collecting or other hobbies.

Collecting gives you a sense of purpose - you strive to achieve a goal, and once that goal is reached (a complete collection of collectible coffee mugs, for example), you feel accomplished. That accomplishment is powerful. It builds self-esteem - it tells you, YES, you can achieve your goals when you set your mind to it.

Mindfulness - whether practiced through collecting
Image by Vladimir via flickr

Many collectors find immense pride in their collections. They proudly display their finds; they work hard to understand each item's history and intrinsic value. Displaying their collection to family, friends, or the whole world allows the collector to show off the diligence and dedication - sometimes decades of work - that went into finding each critical piece in their collection.

Moreover, collecting gives you a space to grow knowledge and expertise. It provides you with a space where similar-minded people recognize your knowledge. Engagement among fellow collectors affirms that, yes, your hobby has value. That alone can create a sense of confidence and personal pride. Ultimately, finding more confidence and building self-esteem helps you find a deep sense of fulfillment, perhaps the most gratifying result of collecting.


How can collecting boost self-esteem?

Collecting boosts self-esteem by providing a sense of personal achievement, pride, and expertise within the field of your collection. It also provides a way for you to display your knowledge and connect with like-minded individuals - which, in turn, develops confidence.

Can collecting have a positive impact on individuals with low self-esteem?

Yes! Collecting can help individuals with low self-esteem by giving them an attainable goal to pursue, which, when attained, creates a feeling of gratification and confidence. Additionally, collecting helps individuals find a social group with similar interests that can provide support and a welcoming environment for that individual.

Is there a connection between self-esteem and mental health?

Yes, research indicates a correlation between self-esteem and mental health. Typically individuals with lower self-esteem are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.

Mindfulness - whether practiced through collecting
Image by Michael Martine via flickr


There’s something intensely enjoyable about collecting. Whether you seek out rare stamps or simply like to collect seashells and rocks, doing so provides many benefits. Not only do you build a collection, but you also invest in your mental well-being. Collecting can help you discover mental awareness and calm, reduce stress, and simply foster a sense of self-esteem simply by doing something you love.

Newcomers to collecting will find a vast world of opportunities and options. There’s no rule as to what “counts” as collecting. You may discover collecting vintage bottles as thrilling as someone else finds collecting luxury cars. Exploring collecting lets you discover what items hold intrinsic value and can ultimately teach you what “things” you truly find worthwhile. So, find something that brings you joy and tend to it; give it your time and dedication, and soon you’ll build a collection to be proud of.


What are some common items that people collect?

Collecting is a huge field in the hobby world. Most people think of baseball cards, cars, stamps, and antiquities when they hear, “I’m a collector.” Many hobbyists choose to collect items with monetary value - though, you can always collect items that hold more intangible, emotional value…or simply because something looks cool.

Popular items collected by hobbyists include:

Can collecting be an expensive hobby?

Yes, collecting can get as expensive as you let it. Some collectibles inherently cost more than others, particularly when you start looking at historical items, vehicles, and artwork. It’s important to set a budget for what you are willing to spend on an item or collection to prevent overspending or adding monetary stress to your hobby - that will only reduce the joy you feel when collecting.

Is there a limit to how many items one can collect?

In some ways, yes. You can only have as many items in a collection as you have space for, after all. And in some cases, the collectible items come with a limit unto themselves. For example, some collections may only have forty coins or stamps to collect before completion; once you complete that set, you’ll need to find a new collection to build.

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