Hands-on activities are an inspired way to strengthen your mental health. You don’t need lots of money, fancy equipment, or a particular area of skill to tap into the many benefits of a creative hobby.
Whether you’d like to lower stress levels, express creativity, ease symptoms of depression, or simply improve your mood, crafting can be an enjoyable way to promote positive thoughts, behaviours and emotions.
If you or a loved one has a mental health concern, please reach out for help. Support from licensed mental health professionals is available from MyTherapist.
How crafting benefits mental health
Let’s take a look at how crafting benefits mental health in more detail.
Crafting promotes relaxation, and relaxing can help ease levels of stress and anxiety. Stress can also be reduced by the rhythmic, repetitive motions required of some crafts, such as knitting, crocheting, or sanding.
Central to the idea of crafting is that you are engaging in an activity which you find fun. Taking part in pleasurable activities helps ease symptoms of depression and improve mood.
Crafting can stimulate release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine plays a role in feelings of pleasure, reward, and motivation, so reaching for the craft kit is a simple way to give yourself a natural mood boost.
4. Lower levels of cortisol
Cortisol is a stress hormone. Chronic stress that keeps cortisol levels high can lead to both physical and mental health problems. Engaging in an enjoyable hobby such as crafting can reduce stress and cortisol, improving quality of life.
5. Flow state
Crafting can help you get into a “flow state,” sometimes referred to as “being in the zone.” Fully engaging in a hobby encourages a state of flow where a sense of time and self-consciousness seem to disappear. Allowing attention to flow away from ourselves and into a craft can offer relief from negative feelings, and promote a sense of happiness and satisfaction.
Crafting can be a mindful activity. Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment, not worrying about the past or the future. Being mindful can prompt appreciation and awareness of the present, and disrupt negative thoughts and feelings.
7. Improved concentration
Crafting is a good way to improve concentration. While working on a creative project can be relaxing, it also requires mindful attention, which can strengthen the ability to focus.
8. Social connection
Crafting offers an easy way to connect with others. Joining an art programme or group, or doing crafts with family and friends can provide a sense of community. Interacting with people who share the same interests and goals as you can also be very uplifting.
9. Quality time alone
While creating with others can be energising and help to strengthen bonds, crafting alone also has its benefits. Crafting can offer a quiet, restorative time for self-reflection, self-discovery, and relaxation.
Crafting can be a gift to yourself and to others. Using or displaying something you’ve made can give you a sense of accomplishment and boost self-esteem. And giving your homemade creations to others can strengthen social bonds and deliver on feelgood factor. Just creating something simple like a card and giving it to someone can boost the feelings of both the giver and the recipient.
11. The benefits of touch
Touching and working with materials, such as clay and fabrics, can offer a tactile, self-soothing experience. Physically working with materials can also help release tension and anger in a healthy way.
12. Expression of feelings
Crafting can be an outlet for your feelings. Collaging is a good example; cutting out words and pictures to use in a collage or decoupage project can help you name and understand your feelings, as well as express them. You can of course express your feelings through drawing, painting, sculpting, sewing and all other crafts too.
13. Soothing sensory experience
Engaging the senses can be good for mental health. Using colours that appeal to you or reflect your feelings can engage the sense of sight. Mixing your own colours can also stimulate creativity and problem-solving skills. Making soaps or candles with essential oils engages the sense of smell. Baking can engage the senses of taste, smell and touch – and sharing baked goods can make everyone happy!
14. Engage with nature
Crafting is perfect for bringing you closer to nature. Spending time in green spaces is a proven stress reliever; for a double dose of stress reduction, try spending time outside collecting natural materials for crafting. For example, you could use leaves or flowers to create a wreath, and then hang it indoors to bring nature into your home. Sketching outside or drawing inspiration from nature’s colours can also be wonderfully calming.
Crafting can have so many positive effects on our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It’s easy to see why crafting benefits mental health; many of us enjoy crafting as an escape, a way to relax, a chance to connect with others, or a route to a sense of achievement. As well as being a fun way to spend your leisure time, crafting is a truly creative form of self-care.
Do you use crafting as a way to support your mental health?