Hey there crafters! This week our blog is discussing a subject that is really close to our hearts at Makebox & Co: the health benefits, particularly the mental health benefits, of crafting and creative activity.
As those who craft regularly already know; creative activity of any sort, but particularly crafting, can bring incredible benefits to mental health and wellbeing. Spending time making something – i.e. using your hands to knit, fold, mould or draw and keeping your mind engaged but focused on the external activity, is an incredibly calming motion. Likened to periods of mindful meditation where you are fully in the present, focused only on the next stitch, or mark, with thoughts passing by, noticed and acknowledged, but somehow, just being. Then, of course, at the end you also get the satisfaction of having made something!
And, for those among us who are also scientifically minded, this article from Psypost today: “Stress-related hormone cortisol lowers significantly after just 45 minutes of art creation” provides the physical evidence. To briefly summarise, it says that after 45 minutes of creative activity there were significantly reduced levels of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ in study participants – irrespective of how ‘experienced’ an artist they were!
As experts on the subject, we sat down with Rosemary Davidson and Arzu Tahsin, authors of “Craftfulness: Mend Yourself by Making Things” to discuss this in more detail.
As Rosemary and Arzu say, It is not a “crafting book, per se, but one about the wisdom that generations of men and women know to be true: that making things is a vital means of self-expression, self-realisation, and self-help that sparks the mind, touches the soul, and rejuvenates the spirit.”
Rosemary told me that both her and Arzu caught the creative bug young: Arzu’s Turkish Cypriot family and neighbours teaching her to sew clothes for her dolls and Rosemary being taught to knit and sew by the age of five by her seamstress grandmother and Great Aunt Dolly – and both continue to enjoy the practice today. Rosemary commented “I always like to have a piece of knitting or some visible darning to occupy my hands while I’m on the sofa watching TV, and once a week I spend four hours doing pottery with friends in our teacher, Joanna Taylor’s, posh shed in Hackney. I love pottery – working with clay is especially therapeutic for me.”
Turning to the sorts of things they discovered while researching the book, it was great to see the growing body of evidence from clinical trials that clearly show how a creative practice such as knitting, delivers significant therapeutic benefits for sufferers of stress and anxiety. “When we spoke to Bound By Veterans, for example, an amazing charity offering bookbinding skills to troubled ex-servicemen and women, they explained that there is overwhelming evidence that this craft has helped them with their mental health, alleviating symptoms of depression, stress and chronic anxiety.” Rosemary adds.
Even better, when crafting becomes a community activity, there are additional benefits: “Joining in a craft group can be fun and rewarding, but it can also play a vital role in combating social isolation and loneliness for anyone, but especially in the older population” Rosemary informs us. “According to Daisy Fancourt, a growing number of studies show that a group craft activity can make a positive impact on early mortality rates, whatever one’s socio-economic situation and medical history.”
“…a growing number of studies show that a group craft activity can make a positive impact on early mortality rates, whatever one’s socio-economic situation and medical history.”
Is it any wonder that we can spend hours talking about the health benefits of crafting? But we don’t want you to just read about crafting (although if you do, I can heartily recommend starting with ‘Craftfulness: Mend Yourself By Making Things’). Instead get out there and get crafting – feel the benefits yourself.
With this in mind, we will leave you with one final bit of advice from Rosemary, and that’s her advice for beginners: “Don’t fret too much about the outcome – take classes (pottery for example) or ask a friend to teach the basics – crochet, knitting etc are best taught at someone’s side so you can watch their hands and they can guide yours. With something like knitting, start with something small and achievable at first so you can see results quickly. Don’t obsess about mistakes – see your first objects as perfectly imperfect ‘early period’ works of art!”
And please! If this is your first time, do share some of these ‘early period’ pieces with us on Instagram. Huge thanks to Rosemary and Arzu for their brilliant book and words of wisdom.
If you want to try your and at crafting, head over to our shop to find the box that suits you best: https://www.makebox.co/shop/all/