Why crafting is good for your mental health
Learn about how craft therapy is helping people with their mental health up and down the country.
Improve your mental wellbeing by picking up your crafting tool of choice and use making as a form of therapy…
When life gets stressful there’s nothing better than losing yourself in some knitting or setting up the sewing machine to forget about your problems.
While, as crafters, we’ve known how making can lift our mood, it can still be difficult to make time to create just for us, or remember to pick up a paintbrush when things are getting too much.
Crafting can be an incredible way to improve your mental health, but don’t just take our word for it. Oxford University currently run the Yarnfulness Project to find out more about why making is so good for our wellbeing, while Knit for Peace have conducted research to find out more about the health benefits of knitting. It’s not just nimble fingers, but picking up knitting can lower blood pressure, slow the onset of dementia, distract from chronic pain and combat anxiety.
Turn negative into positive
Mental health charity Mind also believes that making time for craft can help with all kinds of mental health problems. “Lots of people find creative activities therapeutic because they help you switch off from day-to-day pressures and turn negative thoughts or feelings into something positive,” explains Mind’s Rachel Boyd.
“Crafting like knitting or paper craft can be almost meditative as you’re sitting in one place and doing repeated activities over and over again. For example there is some research evidence to suggest that craft activities such as knitting, when done on a regular basis, can improve mood and increase feelings of relaxation.”
Nat Schwarz who runs the Instagram page and hashtag Craft As Therapy is a great believer in using your hobby to make you take time out from the stresses of everyday life. “When you’re concentrating on following a pattern or planning which fabrics to use, your brain isn’t allowed to wonder into the dark corners where anxiety and other things live,” she says,
“It also gives you something to look forward to at the end of a tough day, or week. That little pocket of time you know you will have just for you. When I first started to crochet I was also trying, and failing, to fall pregnant. Crochet helped me mentally cope with the next four years of IVF and miscarriages by not only diverting my mind from the anxiety and depression, but also giving me a sense of pride and achievement that I wasn’t failing at everything. I am now a proud mama of two-year-old twins, and crochet continues to help me with anxiety and chronic pain.”
Anyone can join the online Craft As Therapy community and share your projects with others who feel the same or are fighting their own, often invisible, battles.
Meet other makers
While an online community is a great place to start, especially if the idea of meeting a group of strangers is stressful, socialising with other makers can provide a great support system during difficult times. Sarina Saddiq is painter for We are Hairy People who create custom hand painted clothes. The clothing company is passionate about helping others use craft to improve their mental wellbeing and run creative ‘Warrior Workshops’. “Workshops are a good way to meet new people, process feelings, and unwind and anyone is welcome to join us,” explains Sarina
“Our last workshop took place in a roundhouse, everyone had such a good day painting in a cosy little hut! We are always impressed with everyone’s painting abilities. Me and Aimee, another painter for We are Hairy People, met the founder Sarah through workshops. Now we paint for We are Hairy People and have are own collections! I’ve previously struggled with my mental health and have found working in such a lovely team to be really uplifting and supportive.”
As well as finding craft groups local to you via social media and your local craft shops, Mind is once again running their annual Crafternoon on 1 December to encourage people to craft together while raising money for charity. “We want people to kick off their festive season by hosting their own Crafternoon. Get together with friends to enjoy some festive treats, and make your own Christmas cards and decorations,” says Rachel.
“Getting together with a group of people to craft together can turn it into a social activity, which we know is good for our general wellbeing while also strengthening our support networks.
Make time to make
But how can you make more time for crafting in a busy life? Nat says you must make it a priority even if it’s only for a short while. “On days when I am really struggling, even five minutes with my project can really help me,” she says.
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“Make crafting a priority. Being a mum of toddler twins, I’m very time poor. But, I always allow myself a minimum of an hour each night on my crafting. For me, I have made it almost as important, as brushing my teeth.”
The moment making becomes a chore or a business that you no longer enjoy, don’t force it. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to start selling my makes, rather than making for me,” says Nat.
“Once I stopped trying to convert everything I made into profit, I found my creativity and happiness grew It would be wonderful to able to do both though, but I am much happier just allowing myself to create.”
Sarina also advises not to make yourself finish something that is no longer giving you joy. Instead ditch the WIP for something that fulfils you. She explains, “Crafting should be relaxing, so if a project is not going the way you want, it’s ok to move onto making something else that you might enjoy more.”
First image courtesy of @yarn_house
Karen has been writing for magazines for over 21 years and currently splits her time between journalism and running Creative Biscuit Ceramics Café in east London with her partner Tim. Karen has written for a wide range of publications, from showbiz titles to real life features with plenty of craft and design in the mix too. She now focuses on writing about small creative businesses, craft, design, homes and living well for publications such as Mollie Makes and The Simple Things as well as running creative workshops from her café and making her own ceramics.
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