Purposeful activity

Purposeful activities provide structure to your days, give you satisfaction and meaning in life, build your sense of self-worth and make you feel like a contributor.

Purposeful activities mean different things to different people and they come in many shapes and forms. What is work for one person, may be a hobby or a passion for another. [1]


Satisfying and productive work is one of the best ways to boost your wellbeing. It nurtures our self-esteem, social connections, financial security, status and sense of identity, and has been shown to assist in recovery from mental illness.

There will be times when work and other parts of your life are not in balance. Sometimes family life will require more attention and at other times, you may be needed more at work. It’s important not to overdo it and cause undue stress when there are increased demands on your time and attention. During these periods, it’s useful for family members to be understanding, and for employees and employers to have a trusting and respectful partnership.

Paid work isn’t available to everybody for many reasons, including health or finding suitable work that aligns with your skills. However, research shows that being involved in any purposeful activity like volunteering, hobbies or learning new things can benefit your physical and mental health. [2

Stopping purposeful activities without replacing them with new ones can have a negative effect on mental health. Being open to new activities or doing old activities in a new way can help you manage your wellbeing.


Volunteering keeps you physically and mentally active. It also helps you develop stronger social networks and friendships. Volunteering is very flexible - you can contribute as much time as you’d like, from just a few hours every so often to a full-time commitment.

Working as a volunteer is an opportunity to learn new skills and knowledge, which may improve employability. Volunteering can be a great way for people from multicultural and newly arrived communities to become involved in local life and get familiar with Australian workplaces and systems. [3]

Learning and education

Throughout your life, you will continue to learn and use new information and skills. Your brain is like your body – it gets stronger when you exercise it.

Learning new skills keeps your brain young and fit, especially when the learning is somewhat challenging and you must persevere to succeed.

Learning can give you a sense of power and control over your life. It helps you to make connections with like-minded people and the world around you. [4]


Having a hobby is a great way to spend your spare time and unwind from your daily routine. Spending time on an activity that you enjoy can help to reduce stress and protects against low moods and depression.

Your interests may be creative, athletic, academic, or something uniquely personal. You can choose hobbies that you do alone or as part of a group. [5]

Which activity is right for you?

There are many purposeful activities to choose from and it might take some time to find the right one for you. The most important thing is just to start. Consider the following:

  • Is there something that you have always wanted to do?
  • What pursuits made you happy as a child?
  • How do you like to spend your time – Do you prefer to be indoors or outdoors? With other people or on your own?

See everyday activities as an opportunity to engage in a purposeful activity.

  • Cooking: Take some classes or volunteer at a food relief centre.
  • Spending time with your pet: Try an obedience class or some agility training. Foster an animal or volunteer with local wildlife groups.
  • Gardening: Learn how to grow your own food or volunteer with local nature groups.
  • Home decoration: Learn about interior design, upcycle and restore an old piece of furniture.
  • Reading: Take a writing course, start a blog or try your hand at poetry.
  • Spending time with children or grandchildren: Babysit, or volunteer at their school.
  • Organisation: You might find pleasure in scrapbooking, taking photos or videos of family events or tracking your family history.
  • Exercise: Activities like running, strength training, yoga and meditation can also be a hobby.

Get involved locally

Volunteering Geelong is a not-for-profit organisation that matches people wanting to volunteer with organisations looking for volunteers. Diversitat have an array of volunteer programs to assist newly arrived individuals and communities to settle into Geelong.

Men’s Sheds are a great way to make new friends and learn or pass on new skills. Local community centres and neighbourhood houses provide a range of activities and short courses.

The Gordon offers hundreds of courses at Certificate, Diploma, Advanced Diploma, Apprenticeship and Traineeship levels, as well as a wide range of short courses. Deakin University is one of Australia’s largest universities with more than 32,000 students operating over four campus locations, two of which are situated in Geelong.

[1] Head to Health. (2019) Purposeful activity (accessed on 1 April 2020).

[2] Head to Health. (2019) Purposeful activity - work (accessed on 1 April 2020).

[3] Head to Health. (2019) Purposeful activity - volunteering (accessed on 1 April 2020).

[4] Head to Health. (2019) Purposeful activity – learning and education (accessed on 1 April 2020).

[5] Head to Health. (2019) Purposeful activity – hobbies (accessed on 1 April 2020).

Page last updated: Tuesday, 1 February 2022