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8 ways crafts can benefit our physical and mental health

Studies show there is a physiological connection between our hands and hearts, it really is more than just a warm and fuzzy feeling. Today on the blog I want to share with you some interesting facts about crafting and how it affects your physical and mental wellbeing.

8 benefits to crafting for physical and mental health

‘The Connection Between Art, Healing and Public Health’, analyzed more than 100 studies about the effects of the creative arts on physical and mental health. The benefits range from the obvious stress relief and outlet for creative expression to improving brain productivity, enhancing self-esteem, and even lowering your blood pressure. Is it the creating or the giving that brings the most benefits? Is the connection deeper when we've made a group project? I’ll let you discuss that in the comments. In the meantime, here are some of the benefits this study shared with us about how our crafts improve our lives and health. My lecture “Quilting is my therapy” goes into these areas and more and includes examples of how creating has helped makers from the inside out.

1. Stress relief

Immersion in your latest project can help you to refocus your mind from harmful and negative distractions. Often opening you up to more positive attitudes, or mellowing of moods as you let go of anxiousness from stressful situations. The act of crafting becomes a meditation in itself.

If you think about the gentle act of hand-stitching, there is rhythm there that lulls, the same too in knitting and even in beading. One stitch at a time, carefully focusing on the act of doing. You can see how this reduces stress.

2. Lowers blood pressure

As you would expect with any stress relieving activity, blood pressures are likely to lower when we feel calm and more content. It is not too hard to imagine that there are some health benefits we can take from crafting, that include lowering blood pressure.

3. Confidence and enhanced self-esteem

Finishing a project gives you a sense of accomplishment, which positively promotes a happier state of mind through the release of Dopamine into your system. If you open yourself to looking for the positives in even the most challenging of projects by looking for the learning opportunities, that can also promote the feeling of accomplishment. Helping you achieve a move towards better mental health and mood improvement at that moment.

Sometimes we cannot control everything in our lives and that can feel unsettling. Picking up a smaller art project or an easy quilt square to work on and focusing our efforts in finishing that one task, can help us feel like we managed something.

4. Increases brain activity and cognition

I mentioned before the release of Dopamine which promotes a calmer state of mind when crafting. That stimulation also allows our brain to fire new neurons associated with focus, concentration and learning. All of which helps us increase our productivity, which in turn again promotes happiness as we work through projects.

Cognition and recognition is another important element of our psychological health that crafting helps improve. The processing our brain demands in learning new skills, logically tackling new projects and remembering pattern repeats can help us battle the deterioration of an aging brain. This is why things like knitting, or crochet are recommended for people suffering with dementia.

5. Enhances quality of life

For those of us with debilitating conditions crafting even in shorter bursts enhances not only our physical capabilities, but can also immeasurably improve our mental well being, even when our conditions feel they are worsening. The act of sewing, knitting or cross-stitch for some can act as dexterity exercises and the completion of a satisfying project can make us feel accomplished, even if our bodies hold us back.

6. Small exercises can help dexterity

Sometimes we think of exercise as these big gestures of keep fit programmes and whilst of course many of these programmes are designed to help you gain bigger overall impacts on your body’s physiological health, there are also gains to be won from smaller exercises. As we get older and our body ages, one of the biggest things we notice is our body doesn’t easily do the things we used to take for granted we could do. Opening jars, breaking small pills and so on. Taking up a craft, like knitting for example, can help keep your fingers trained to be more nimble as you age.

7. Boosts empathy

Engaging with other artists and crafters accelerates your ability to improve your critical thinking and empathy. We see this working in group projects and at exhibitions, where our engagement with people and their work often increases and encourages our passion and debate.

Empathy leads to understanding, even in more complicated subjects. A story quilt is a great example of this. A term pioneered by Faith Ringgold in the 1980s, with her Street Story quilt collection, where we are encouraged to see other’s perspectives on a similar topic about life through the eyes of the subject.

8. Allows further self expression and understanding

Now more than ever makers are using their art to empower themselves by expressing their views on the world, a different type of therapy. They are creating a tapestry of emotions, pouring their heart and soul into every stitch. This is a huge benefit, not just personally, but also for our community and the world around us. We are talking about subjects we might not otherwise come across in our daily lives.

Is it the creating or the giving that benefits us most?

From my research there is definitely science that falls in both camps here: creating and giving. The act of creating gives us a huge array of mental benefits that can only enhance the physical benefits of ‘doing’. We become relaxed and feel less stressed as a direct result of focus and learning.

I believe that the act of giving in our crafts opens us up to practices of gratitude, love and a little kick of “Helper’s High” if we choose to donate our makes. Next time here on the blog I’ll explore that more deeply with you. In the meantime, please chat in the comments!

Would you like to learn more about how crafting feeds our souls?

I have created a new lecture on the subject which I will be launching at the Festival of Quilts. In this special lecture I will be sharing with you the psychological connection between your heart and your hands and looking at the physical aspects to this too. You’ll also walk away with strategies to rebalance your creative self and clear your head to make room for innovative ideas. Complete with handouts that describe techniques you can practice at home to leave you feeling energized and ready to create, this lecture is going to revolutionize your crafting!


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