All too often, we build up tension from day to day life. Crafting is a proven form of art therapy that has shown to increase dopamine and serotonin levels, build focus, and improve mental flexibility. You don't have to be good at it or spend hours per day making, all you really need is about 45 minutes.
Having a craft hobby is one of the best forms of escapism and can have physical and mental health benefits. Constructive hobbies have been greatly devalued by our current society but, they actually serve important dual purposes.
In my own example, college is stressful. It is a transitional period in the lives of young adults that varies greatly between individuals. According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of college student deal with high stress and 34% deal with depression (Stress 2019).
You can help reduce some of the stress and depression in your life by taking on a new hobby. Yes, that’s it! By taking on a new craft or hobby, one can redirect those low moods toward more positive outcomes.
When you realign your focus on activities that are cathartic, repetitive, and productive, it can drastically help improve your mood over time, while also giving you a physical item to represent the process (Johnson 2019).
What crafts are best for mental health?
There are a plethora of crafts and hobbies out there and by all means, try as many of them as you’d like. Not everyone will be inclined to the same craft.
The top crafts I have for you here are knit and crochet, and clay work, and painting. I may be a little biased here but, these crafts are some of the best (most common) cathartic activities used to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which tend to go hand in hand with each other (Craft Council UK).
According to research from the University College of London in 2018, the arts are linked with dopamine release, which encourages cognitive flexibility, and they reduce our risk of dementia. Engaging in them also lowers our levels of cortisol, a stress induced hormone.
According to the University of Arkansas, the repetition of crafts has been shown to release serotonin (one of the happy hormones), which is a natural antidepressant. Crafts also build community, help us to process grief, and improves focus (Foster 2019).
Results of a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association found that just 45 minutes of creative activity can reduce your stress, regardless of artistic experience or talent (Kaimal et al. 2016).
This was part of my ploy when I started making craft tutorials three years ago. Though I’m not pursuing art therapy in school, I do believe that arts and crafts are therapy. Otherwise, why would it be implemented as a degree program in higher education? Countless people, whom I have taught to knit or crochet, over the years come back to say how soothing the whole activity is and how it acts as their happy place. In my own experience, it helps me to not burn out entirely during hard times.
Having a craft hobby is one of the best forms of escapism and can have physical and mental health benefits.
Don't just take my word for it, check out this list of references!
Craft Council UK . 4 Reasons Craft Is Good for Your Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2021, from https://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/stories/4-reasons-craft-good-your-mental-health
Foster, A. (2019, January 24). Crafting for Health: What are the health benefits of crafting? Retrieved April 7, 2021, from https://www.uaex.edu/life-skills-wellness/personal-family-well-being/navigating-life-blog/crafting_for_health.aspx
Johnson, L. (2019, April 18). DIY Depression Therapy: How the Arts Can Heal - Healthline. Retrieved April 7, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/diy-depression-therapy-how-the-arts-can-heal#Birds-of-hope
Kaimal, G., Ray, K., & Muniz, J. (2016). Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants Responses Following Art Making. Art Therapy, 33(2), 74-80. doi:10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832
Stress: An Epidemic Among College Students. (2019, September 06). Retrieved April 07, 2020, from https://www.stress.org/stress-an-epidemic-among-college-students