Hobbies and your mental health in 2020

I’d like to believe that 2019 was the year that mental health finally became something everyone and anyone could share and talk about. I also understand that it’s not going to be that easy.

Staying indoors all day every day during your days off work (or school) may seem relaxing but it is not the best thing to do for your mental health, which needs some stimulation to be in the best condition.

It may be especially difficult for expats who are far from home and immediate family and are more likely to spend extended time by themselves.

The stimulation does not have to be extreme. Just light doses of happy moments stringed together to give a feeling of hygge (comfortable or satisfying experience). This is where hobbies come in.

We’ll be sticking with cheap and free hobbies, thank you. Here are a few of those that you can get into in 2020 that won’t wreck your wallet.

Do comedy

You may or may not already be as funny as Dave Chappelle (or me) but that’s the beauty of comedy clubs. Many of them allow you to participate free of charge; all you need to do is register in advance.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a pro. In fact, comedy clubs have open mic nights for amateurs (like you) to test those funny thoughts on an unwitting audience. You can get an idea of what it is like by attending a few before you sign up to perform.

You should check out Crackhouse Comedy Club in the Klang Valley area and Penang Players Improv Club if you’re in Penang.

Get active

Walk, run, swim, hike, or cycle. Or do all of them if that’s your thing. You would need to spend some money to get the appropriate gear for the activity, but they don’t have to be extremely expensive especially when you’re just starting out.

If you live in a condominium that has sports facilities like lawn or table tennis, squash, swimming pool (typically), basketball, or futsal, then you already have somewhere to start.

You can check out sites like Carousell, Lowyat.net forum, or Mudah.my for low-cost gear for your selected activity.

Want other shopping options? Here’s a list of online shopping sites in Malaysia.


You get a wide variety of options and causes to volunteer your support for. You can mentor or just spend quality time with refugee children, foster parent pets until they can find permanent homes!!!, share your experiences with rehabilitating ex-cons, or help locals build their homes.

You don’t even have to stick to only one; you can support and volunteer at as many organizations as you can spare the time for. Variety is the spice of life, they say. You should have at least half a day to spare for most of the volunteer activities.

They are free to participate in. Just bring yourself. Check out Malaysian Care and Bento Animal Rescues.


Did you know that there’s a (insert something interesting here) around the block from where you live? Maybe. Perhaps not. As part of your walking or running activity, you can start off exploring the places around you.

There’re also apps (like Geocaching, “the world’s largest treasure hunt”) that allow you to search for and find ‘treasures’ cached in your neighborhood by other geocachers. And there’s District Race, a fitness adventure game that encourages you to explore new places with fun challenges.


Pro-tip: do not allow this to get too expensive!! You can calculate how much you spend eating out every week and redirect half of that fund to cooking your own meals. Half because the variety of eating out will allow you at this for longer and you still have money to eat if you mess up your cooking.

Hopefully, you already have most of the equipment that you need: pots and pans, and all (or most) of the gadgetry that goes along with them. If you don’t, consider getting only what you absolutely require at the moment.

In terms of grocery shopping, you get more than a few options in Malaysia. From high-end chains like Mercato and Cold Storage, Village Grocer and Jaya Grocer, to the middle-lower end ones like Tesco and AEON, and of course, wet markets.

Learn new things

If you already pay for the internet monthly, this can be free depending on what you want to learn. YouTube hosts hundreds of thousands of practical learning videos of almost anything you can think of. If it’s not there already, well your new hobby is to learn ‘it’ and post videos of ‘it’ for others to learn.

From coding to learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, dancing, swimming, or how to make YouTube videos, you have many hobbies to learn available on the internet.

Some sites are industry-specific, like Khan Academy for programming but others, like Coursera and edX, are open and have many free courses that you can take and stimulate your mental health.


Instead of calling the plumber to fix your toilet next time, you can learn how to do-it-yourself (DIY). You’ll need tools and equipment for hobbies in this category, so it’s not entirely free.

You can DIY many things, from fashion to home and car accessories. Things that will be unique to you (think your own Etsy items). You also get the satisfaction of making or fixing something yourself and selling them on Etsy. Unless your hands destroy everything they touch, then stick to other hobbies.

Places you can learn cheap DIYs include Instructables and YouTube (of course). Don’t forget to share what you made with us.

Get a side gig

Or three. You’ve probably heard that the gig economy has been taking off in the last few years. You too can contribute your skills and talents to the thriving community of freelancers by taking on gigs as hobbies.

It may be difficult for some people to find freelance gigs but you can learn a new skill and then get paid for it. For undergraduates and recent (fresh) graduates, this is especially important; many jobs require you to have some experience. Freelance careers count as valid experience and as hobbies.

You can find opportunities to practice your new hobbies in places like LinkedIn (yes), Freelancer.my, and ServisHero.

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