Crafting a Healthier You

national-craft-monthGrowing up, I almost always had a crayon, paint brush or glue stick in my hand. Whether I was doodling, making a picture collage, or scrapbooking, arts and crafts were—and still remain—a favorite hobby of mine. Despite having less free time as an adult, I still try to schedule time for creative projects; this time is necessary to help take my mind off other obligations and stressors in my life.  Crafting (especially knitting) greatly impacts the body and mind; if you’re not channeling your inner craftiness, you’re likely missing out on many physical and mental health benefits.

So, in recognition of National Craft Month, let’s chat and chew over the importance of crafting for our health, as well as different activities you can try!

HEALTH BENEFITS OF CRAFTING

It relieves stress. Whether you’re jump-starting a new project or picking up where you left off, crafting is a great way to unwind.  Research shows that activities such as sewing can lower a person’s heart rate, while the repetitive motion of making strokes with a paintbrush can calm someone’s state of mind. (1) Moreover, through his comprehensive research on depression, Barry Jacobs, Ph. D., of Princeton University found that “repetitive movements enhance the release of serotonin, which brings you out of a bad mood.” While crafting, you’re able to shift your focus away from any negativity or anxiety in your life and focus solely on the task at hand. You will likely find yourself in a meditative state.

It builds your self-esteem. When you set your mind to something, your self-esteem rises as you progress toward the end-goal. With crafting, MarthaStewart.com says, “the process of envisioning, producing, and realizing a product to its final form boosts our sense of self-worth and encourages us to connect in social circles.” (2) In other ways, crafting builds our self-esteem by, learning new skills, feeling productive, working with or giving back to others, creating art through self-expression, and more!

It may reduce or delay dementia. Studies show that knitting and crocheting can postpone memory loss as we age.   It is also a soothing activity for anyone already experiencing signs of dementia. A study done by Yonas Geda, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, showed that knitting is “neuroprotective and may reduce dementia by as much as 50%.” (3)

It reduces restlessness and frustration. The Lion Brand, the oldest American hand-knitting yarn brand, says that crafting, more specifically knitting and crocheting, can help you through moments of grumpiness, agitation, irritability, or boredom. Crafting provides an outlet that helps eliminate these tense feelings.

It’s all about the flow. When crafting, you can become completely immersed in the activity, or a moment, that suddenly your worries disappear. According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this concept of “flow”, is the secret to happiness. (4) During a 2004 TED Talk, he stated, “When we are involved in (creativity), we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life. You know that what you need to do is possible… even though difficult, and sense of time disappears.” Once you enter into that worry-free mindset, you could gain a new sense of purpose. “You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger,” Csikszentmihalyi continued.

Experts have also found a parallel between the benefits of the “flow” we enter during crafting and those of meditation; they report changes in our physical and emotional responses to stress (i.e. decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and muscle tension). (5) Also, similar to how meditation—a form of “mental exercise”—can help regulate your attention and emotions, and improve well-being, there’s proof that crafting may provide the same benefits.

It offers needed playtime. Similar to how kids need playtime to grow their imaginations, press the restart button, and simply be kids, this is slowly becoming a necessity for adults as well. Whether it’s sewing, playing an instrument, building model airplanes, drawing, etc., to truly embrace the kid inside of us all, it’s important to really commit time to unplanned activities. Not only does it greatly improve your mood, it also promotes better physical health. Give it a try—see just how quickly that lower back pain, battle with insomnia, or digestion issue goes away!

As you begin to weave your way through various crafting activities, keep in mind that you do not need to be a gifted artist or knitting expert – crafts are meant to be fun and therapeutic! The key is to find a craft or a creative project that is mentally stimulating and most importantly, ENJOYABLE to you. Have some fun activities of your own? Or, maybe you love to craft just like me? Share in the comments section what projects you enjoy most – help inspire others to enjoy the craftier things in life.

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3 thoughts on “Crafting a Healthier You

  1. I would agree to everything mentioned. Crafting is therapeutic. And, that’s what I remind my family when I come upstairs from crafting for six hours in the basement. Think of the life I’m saving!!

    • Julieann – Thank you for your feedback! While it’s hard to make time for crafts each week, when I get into a creative zone, it truly makes a world of difference. Like you, when I emerge from my work space hours later, I simply feel better. It’s such a simple solution to turn around a less than perfect day!

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