Modern life is busy, full of stress and strain for most of us and finding time to relax and recuperate can be hard. Even when we do the temptation to settle yourself at a screen of some sort can be overwhelming. However, this can leave us feeling even more wired and alert at the end of the day, contributing to lack of sleep and increased stress levels during the day. If you’re feeling strung out one excellent way to unwind is also one of the oldest tricks in the book. A bit of hands on creativity can have some surprisingly positive effects on your state of mind and even your general health. While “basket weaving” has long been used in “occupational therapy” it’s not the only art or craft that can calm your mind and feed your brain. Here are just some of the benefits of a little light crafting!
Not all of us find meditation the easiest thing in the world to practice but one technique, mindfulness meditation, is now recognised by medical practitioners as having some very positive mental health benefits. Craft pursuits – from knitting and crochet to pottery and sculpture do, by their very nature, focus you in the moment. Most people who are actively involved in the arts and crafts – either professionally or as a hobby – find that once they start on a project they experience a sense of calm, focus and a sense of being centred in the moment. Rare in many people’s day-to-day lives this kind of hobby can be a fast route to learning to ‘meditate’ in a very simple way. The great thing about this is that meditative states, including the mindfulness technique, have been shown to have both physiological benefits – reducing blood pressure and heart rates – and psychological ones – reducing stress levels and helping to battle anxiety.
Building Blocks for Confidence
There’s nothing like creating something with your own hands to foster a real sense of achievement and self-confidence. Many of us today work in roles in which real, tactile products and results are few and far between. Whilst getting your in box to zero, updating your status on Facebook or creating an exciting new spreadsheet may all be productive in some way but often digital ‘production’ doesn’t always feel very fulfilling. Craft and art hobbies – whether that’s papercraft or jewellery making – leave you with a sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency and also with something tangible (and potentially useful) to show for your efforts. Like other hands-on activities such as gardening, the sense of achievement is for many people deeply profound.
Activities that involve using your hands are also known to improve and maintain hand-eye coordination. This has a number of benefits – but it is particularly important as we grow older. Our brains can stagnate if we’re not careful and craft based activities are a great way to keep us mentally active. Using your hands to create keeps your brain active and stimulated which is a healthy thing in itself but can also help to improve coordination, problem solving and intuitive thinking. All of these aspects of brain development are important whatever age you are and are particularly good for kids, helping them to develop a more rounded way of thinking at an early age.
Long before the type of social network where you could establish a network of a million plus friends who you’ve never met, craft-work often led to meeting new friends (in person). One aspect of art and craft work that appeals to many people is the opportunity to join in local clubs, activity groups or shows. Most arts and crafts activities are likely to have a local group of enthusiasts and joining one can improve your social life and your people skills. A healthy social life is good for us all and meeting new people can open up new opportunities. From knitting circles to art classes for adults, the social side of arts and crafts is, for many people, one of their most important elements.
A Healthy Bank Balance
Perhaps not a health benefit but craft work can also be good for your pocket. For centuries, millennia even, the cheapest option has often been the home-made one. From clothing to décor or Christmas Cards to birthday gifts, the DIY option is bound to save you money. And with life getting seemingly more expensive every minute this is a serious consideration for many people. When it comes to creating things for yourself, or as gifts for others, the home-made can save you a surprising amount of money. In the case of gifts, as the holidays approach, there is also something far more special for both giver and receiver in the personal touch of hand-crafted gifts.
Whichever branch of the creative world you choose the low cost of arts and crafts supplies or other raw materials and ‘kit’ along with the benefits for both your mental and physical health (and of course that bank balance) are many and varied.