17 April 2020
Find out all about how craft is good for our health and be amazed by the unexpected benefits of crafting.
We've all been asked at some point in our lives if we have a hobby, or been asked what we do in our spare time. We at MC&P feel it's really important to look at the benefits of crafts for adults and understand how our hobbies can impact our lives in many positive ways.
For example, did you know there are huge benefits of crafting on mental health? Read on to find out how much your hobbies are positively impacting so many areas of your life.
Why is crafting important?
Before looking at the effect of crafting on our personal health and lives, it's essential to look at the history of crafting to understand exactly why crafting is so important. Here's the Collins English Dictionary definition:
We think the word 'skillfully' is really important here. We've all had our crafts dismissed as 'just a hobby' in the past, but being a crafter requires real skill both mentally and physically.
It's no exaggeration when we say that, without craft, the world we know would be a much bleaker and difficult place to live. Seriously, without craft, we wouldn't have furniture, communications, delicious recipes, even clothes!
Famous designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh
World-changing historical figures including Charles Rennie Mackintosh, William Morris, May Morris, Jan Wetstone (creator of modern decoupage) and Frida Kahlo were all artists and skilled craftspeople in their own right. So, the next time someone asks you 'why is crafting important?', you can tell them just how much craftspeople have contributed to the world. How exciting is it to be a part of that too?
Benefits of crafting on mental health
There are so many benefits of crafting on mental health, it's hard to list them all. We've looked at crafting and mindfulness before, but let's dive a little deeper here.
1. Stress reduction
Stress is a leading cause of mental health problems around the world and can lead to fatigue, migraines and ever early memory loss. But don't panic, crafting has been found to seriously help with stress reduction.
Occupational Health International, 2007.
By taking your mind away from things that are bothering you, craft has been found to help relieve stress symptoms and stimulate the neurological system to help enhance your health and well-being.
These benefits can help general day-to-day stress and more severe issues such as PTSD. In fact, groups such as Combat Stress, the UK charity for war veterans' mental health, offer craft classes such as pottery to help ex-soldiers work through PTSD symptoms.
It may surprise you to know that low self-esteem and confidence affect people of all ages and genders around the world. Lacking in confidence and self-belief can have hugely negative consequences on your mental health, so it's important to keep self-esteem as high as possible. A 2018 study in the journal Psychological Bulletin discovered that our self-esteem seems to rise throughout our lives, up to around age 60. Then, after around a decade, it dramatically declines.
Getting involved in a project can really boost your self-esteem. It gives you something practical and visual to create, with physical results to prove to yourself just how much you can achieve. A sign of low self-esteem is worrying about being unable to do or achieve things, so embarking on a project can really help counteract this problem.
3. Anxiety and depression
Did you know that depression is the most prominent mental health problem experienced by people worldwide, followed by anxiety? Statistics by Mental Health Foundation show that depression can be a significant driver of low energy, loss of interest and low mood across the globe, for all genders and ages.
Once again, scientists have been hard at work looking at the beneficial effects of arts and crafts on depression, especially in the elderly. Finding ways to help mental health difficulties without medication are very popular for both medical professionals and patients with anxiety and depression, so taking up arts and crafts to help is ideal for everyone.
In fact, crafting is a proven to naturally lower anxiety and depression, with crafting and creativity found to help raise levels of dopamine in brains affected by a variety of mental and physical health issues.
4. Processing grief
Grief is a very personal experience and we know there is no one rule as to how one can process grief. However, there is evidence that crafting can be beneficial for some people when it comes to a healthy grieving process. The benefits of crafts for adults affected by grief seem to come from helping you rediscover your creativity and as a method of self-care.
Grief is indiscriminate and affects children as well as adults. Experts on loss and grief highly recommend arts and crafts to help children express their grief. Using arts and crafts projects as a medium to communicate has untold positive potential on helping children and adults alike safely communicate and process their grief.
5. Community and craft
For many of us, socialising and expressing ourselves emotionally in a social setting is second nature. However, for many others, social situations can be daunting, meaning people with social-processing conditions often withdraw and isolate themselves. Those with mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression can experience isolation as well.
As we'll discuss in the next section, isolation is rarely good for one's physical or mental health. However, getting involved in community arts and crafts has been found to significantly help those who struggle with social situations. Medical experts from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPGAHW) have discussed how creative arts in the community can help enable confidence, hope and wellbeing in communities for people of all backgrounds and experiences.
How craft is good for our health
There are so many health benefits of crafting on our physical health as well as mental.
1. Healthy brain
While we've talked about the benefits of crafting on mental health, our brain physically benefits from crafting as well. It's important to keep your brain as healthy as your body, so crafting is like a really enjoyable workout for your brain.
There's plenty of scientific evidence to back up how good crafting can be for the brain. A researcher in 2011 found that there are significant cognitive and social benefits of skilled handiwork, and a 2014 occupational therapy study found that giving older women with dementia crafts to try stimulated nonverbal and verbal reactions and helped trigger memories for the women studied.
The 2014 study is particularly important as it was performed on women who had been crafters earlier in their lives as well. So, it would seem that being a crafter during your earlier life can massively benefit your later life as well.
2. All-round exercise
While many hobbies such as reading and puzzling can help keep your brain active, the fact that crafts are so hands-on means your brain and your body are given some all-round exercise. While working with your hands creatively, your brain's concentration, creativity and problem-solving centres are hard at work, which can help relieve symptoms of chronic pain through distraction.
This also means your hands, fingers, arms and shoulder are all working when you're crafting as well, even if you may not realise it. The intricate patterns our fingers can create really tests our motor skills and dexterity, whether it's an old skill or something you've only just learned.
3. Better sleep
Crafting can help stop you from tossing and turning before you go to sleep at night. The often repetitive nature of crafting has been found to help calm the brain and body before bedtime, far more beneficial than blue light and screens before sleep.
What's really handy about using craft to help with sleeping difficulties is you can craft any time of the day or night. Perhaps you fall asleep really easily, but find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night? Get up and do some scrapbooking or follow some nice and easy cardmaking tutorials and you'll probably find yourself tired and ready to sleep again far sooner than if you stayed in bed and stressed to yourself.
4. Social benefits
It's no secret that many of us, no matter what stage of our lives we're at, can feel isolated at times. Some people love it, some people hate it. Craft is here to rescue those who can't help but live their lives as social butterflies!
Even politicians are encouraging people to use arts and crafts for their health, suggesting something called 'social prescribing'. Instead of prescribing only pills for those suffering from depression, dementia, strokes and even social isolation, these patients will be helped to discover social activities to help improve their health and slow the onset of other health problems.
Matt Hancock, Health Secretary.
This is part of the NHS Long Term Plan, where all GPs in England (for now) will be able to refer their patients to activities in the community to improve mental and physical health.
5. Good with (and for) your hands
We've got more science for you here. Crafting has been found to help people who have suffered strokes to regain dexterity in their hands and fingers. Research by a social anthropologist at St Andrews University looked specifically at the benefits of basket weaving for stroke patients and found that crafting can improve how the shapes itself when learning new things.
She noted how basketwork can trigger 'hand memories' for patients who have trouble with their hand mobility, so it seems that working with your hands once again has massive benefits for your health.
Find your craft
Now you know all of the health benefits of crafting, it's time to get creative! If you're not quite sure where to start when it comes to card making, we've got a brilliant article on card making for beginners, with plenty of tips and tricks to get you going.
Once you've checked that out, or if you're already a seasoned pro and ready to go, you need some equipment. We've got plenty of free materials for you to try out, so why not head over to our star sign digi stamps series to download and colour any (or all!) of the zodiac signs?
If you're more of a patterned paper fan, we've got plenty for you to play with, including:
- Flowers and Stripes
- Mother's Day
- Father's Day
- Retro Christmas
- Pretty Piggies
- Friends (with a free tutorial!)
Now that you understand more about the health benefits of crafting, be sure to tell friends, family, coworkers and even strangers on the street all of the amazing and unexpected benefits of crafting and why crafting is important for us all.
Looking for inspiration for your next project? Check out our types of greetings card list and let your creative sparks fly!