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Crafting Is Good for Our Mental Health

Crafting has been around for years. Skills such as knitting, sewing, or woodworking began a long time ago as a necessary skill meant to meet the needs of the family and the community. People sewed their own clothing; knitted sweaters, hats gloves; made pottery for storage, cooking, and eating; built their own homes from wood and created furniture to use, and so much more. With the industrial revolution, wars, and modernization of many things, crafting slowly became more of a hobby than a necessity. How unfortunate for us because crafting has so many benefits for our brains and our mental health.

With Covid 19 and the shutdown last year, many people searched to find a craft to pass the time. This saved many people from falling into depression or going stir crazy and driving their family into depression. I took on knitting. I had attempted to knit many years ago but I did not have a good connection with it and was a little too much of a perfectionist with it so I stopped. This is what happens with many people so a little disclosure… my fellow knitter of now gave me wise wisdom, “you are not doing surgery you are knitting, use your lifeline and have fun.” Find a craft that you are not afraid of and that you can enjoy. Understand that you will not be Rembrandt the first time you paint. Your hat that you knit as your first project may have a dropped stitch or two, but your husband will not say a word when he wears it because it was a labor of love. Crafting is not meant to stress you out rather it is meant to revive an ancient skill and bring joy to you for creating something and to others that you gift your projects to.

So what does crafting have to do with the brain? Much of our brain activity is unconscious. For example, breathing is something that we do and we really do not think about it. This can be referred to as implicit knowledge and it has to do with our motor skills and cognition. Crafting is a motor skill and has that hand to brain connection. Our motor skills as well as our sensory skills are activated during whatever skill we are doing. The cerebellum is responsible for motor skills and the hippocampus is responsible for learning skills and recreating the skill over and over. This is also a part of the brain that is vital to development, therefore, stimulation of both areas of the brain creates connections and increases skills such as memory. A study conducted in the UK showed that seniors (age 70-89) who engaged in crafting regularly decreased their risk of cognitive decline (1).

Crafting also creates a feeling of happiness and it boosts our self-esteem. When we create a different part of our brain is activated and we release dopamine which reduces stress and creates a feeling of happiness. Crafting can be a personal time activity but often crafting is done in a community which is part of the mission of our shop. Creating the artisan community. Our artisans get ideas from each other and grow. Crafting is a tactile activity so there is also a piece there that connects with the brain and is calming. The empowerment we feel when we have

accomplished something also has a significant impact on mental health. Think of work, we have our wild to do list, or a project to finish. When that is accomplished, it is a great feeling. The same goes for crafting. When a project is finished it is an amazing feeling. It is contagious and we want to keep that feeling going. So we continue to go project after project. Finally, the feeling of giving someone a handmade gift is special. It is a piece of you (and if you are a stitcher with cats, it’s a piece of them too!) and it is meaningful. This also boosts confidence and creates a feeling of joy (2 & 3).

On top of many other things such as communication, emotional expression, crafting is a wonderful tool for mental health and stress reduction. The rhythm of knitting, the rhythm of stitching, the stroke of painting, and so on creates a calming and a pattern of mindfulness work. The mindfulness movement is huge, and the main premise is being present. If you are stitching, you have to focus and not think of all the other things going on or you risk dropping a stitch or missing a row. This creates a sense of mindfulness and that helps to heal the brain from the fast-paced world we exist in. So take a break and grab a project to reduce your stresses. Come and visit Thistle Be Perfect Artisan Boutique for inspiration and wonderful gifts to give and visit Thistle Be Perfect Too for all the supplies you need to create your own projects.

1. Geda, Y. E., Topazian, H. M., Roberts, L. A., Roberts, R. O., Knopman, D. S., Pankratz, V. S., Christianson, T. J., Boeve, B. F., Tangalos, E. G., Ivnik, R. J., & Petersen, R. C. (2011). Engaging in cognitive activities, aging, and mild cognitive impairment: a population-based study. The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences, 23(2), 149–154.

2. Huotilainen, M., Rankanen, M., Groth, C., Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, P., & Mäkelä, M. (2018). Why our brains love arts and crafts: Implications of creative practices on psychophysical well-being. FormAkademisk - forskningstidsskrift for design og designdidaktikk, 11(2).

3. Riley, J., Corkhill, B., & Morris, C. (2013). The Benefits of Knitting for Personal and Social Wellbeing in Adulthood: Findings from an International Survey. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76(2), 50–57.

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