3 reasons crafting is great for your mental health

· 494 words · about 2 minutes

Making can change your life

According to research done over the last few decades, crafting can reduce the symptoms of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and even dementia. Here are some ways in which making can help heal the mind.

  1. Engaging with the arts boosts mental wellbeing

Research from University College London’s MARCH mental health network, shows that engaging with the visual arts can reduce reported anxiety, and that visiting museums can protect against dementia’s development. ‘Cultural activities encourage gentle movement, reduce social isolation, and lower inflammation and stress hormones such as cortisol,’ said Dr Daisy Fancourt. ‘The arts are linked with dopamine release, which encourages cognitive flexibility, and they reduce our risk of dementia.’

Other studies back up these findings: Creative activity undertaken daily is linked to positive psychological functioning, while increased engagement with arts events, historical sites, and museums is associated with improved life satisfaction.

2. It brings people together and helps with anxiety

A study by Sinikka Hannele Pöllänen, from the University of Eastern Finland, revealed that textile craft helped them cope with depression and negative feelings, while offering social support and positive relationships. In the UK, craft clubs are emerging that are specifically aimed at boosting mental health, such as Woolly Wellbeing, a club in Liverpool that teaches skills such as knitting and crocheting. We have our own Facebook page where you can share your creations and chat with other people! Craft groups are a great way to meet new people and make friends that share in your hobby and introduce you to new ones.

Craft courses have been prescribed to patients since the dawn of occupational therapy in the late 19th century, with basketry used to relieve anxiety and physical ailments in soldiers during the first world war. They continue to be used today, with groups starting up all over the country to support people.

The activities also have a meditative quality due to their repetition, but also require focus and attention, which can provide healthy distraction from other stresses. Along with their full engagement of the senses, these restorative practices can help us engage in mindfulness, keeping us in the present moment – which benefits our mental health by activating parts of the cortex involved with regulating emotions and dampening activity in the amygdala, which is implicated in processing negative emotions and fear.

3. There are positive links between craft and the cognitive skills of stroke and dementia patients

Anthropologist Stephanie Bunn has been working in hospitals to study how basket-making’s spatial and gestural practices are important for the development of cognitive skills. ‘In the case of stroke recovery, which I’ve been studying at Raigmore Hospital [in Inverness], basketwork can re-establish neural pathways and improve brain plasticity,’ she explains. ‘Basketwork can do the same things for people with dementia, as well as trigger hand memories, which is something that I’ve been working on in a project in Lewis.’

Convinced? Here are some perfect places to start and get into crafting.