Looking to relieve stress? Consider crafting! From improving self-esteem to promoting positive thoughts, creative expression can help you feel mentally nourished. Creativity can work as a tonic, as our brains thrive on the feel-good chemicals it releases. Hands-on activities — such as knitting, painting, sculpting, and other pastimes — can improve your mood as you create works of beauty, express yourself, and solve problems.
What does science say about these claims? Extensive research has been done on the advantages of turning to creativity to address stress and anxiety. Individuals who have experienced trauma often find artistic expression helps ward off anger, depression, and shame. Not only can creativity give us the opportunity to see the world in fresh and different ways, but it’s fun. Having constructive fun is a surefire way to positively impact your mental wellbeing. Plus, the rewards go beyond the creative process, as seeing the finished product can offer a further release of feel-good brain chemicals.
In fact, in a study of 3,500+ knitters, 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy afterward, with more than half feeling very happy. Knitting and other craft-based activities have been a fundamental part of occupational therapy for more than a century, in response to shell-shocked soldiers in World War I. Through repetitive and soothing actions, these distressed men found relief. Today, experts better understand the wide range of psychological benefits of crafting, including a sense of accomplishment, enhanced confidence, and improved concentration and memory.
Furthermore, experts are finding that creativity may also protect the brain from damage caused by aging. Research has uncovered that even in old age, the brain is a flexible organ continually growing and adapting to new environments. This concept, called neuroplasticity, is promoted via games, reading, crafting, and other leisurely activities. It has been shown to reduce the chances of mild cognitive impairment development by 30-50%.
Researchers and phycologists studying brain chemicals discovered that dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is released in the reward center of our brains to make us want to repeat enjoyable actions. Similarly, the release of the stress hormone cortisol can be reduced when engaging in enjoyable hobbies, thus reducing nervous tension. Essentially, our brains make us happy and lower our stress levels when we take part in a hobby such as crafting.
Additionally, our overall well-being can benefit from social connections. Crafting with others and sharing your work is great for providing a sense of community. When considering picking up an artistic hobby, it’s advisable to do so with a public group, family, or friends to capitalize on the rewards.
Break free from the mundane and get started on the path to revitalizing your mind, body, and soul through creativity. For more exploration into the connections between crafting and health, please see the accompanying resource created by Crafts By Number.
Graphic created by Crafts By Number.