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If you knit, scrapbook, or do any kind of craft, you know that crafting is a lot of fun and a great way to spend time (and maybe a little too much money). But did you know that crafting also has health benefits? It’s true!
In fact, knitting, basketweaving, and other crafts have been used for their therapeutic effects for at least a century. They were part of the occupational therapy given during and after World War I to servicemen suffering from PTSD, or “shell shock,” as it was called then. In a more contemporary example, craft stores in the US noted an uptick in sales during the weeks after September 11, 2001. What is it about crafting that makes people turn to it in times of stress?
Famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, who studies creativity and happiness, and invented the concept of flow
, believes that crafts enable people to enter a state of total absorption, which he states is the secret to happiness. Proponents of mindfulness also praise the repetitive, almost meditative nature of many crafts, which quiets the mind and helps to relieve anxiety. I’ve definitely felt this sensation when involved in knitting or sewing, and I know that engaging in creative work noticeably lessens my anxiety and depression. When I go too long without this form of self-care, my mental health suffers.
Crafting is something we can do both alone and with other people. We can cozy up and crochet in front of the TV with a cup of cocoa at our side when we need that perfect introvert evening. But if we want to get some tips, learn new skills, or show off our work to people who “get it,” hanging out with other crafters is a must. This provides meaningful social interaction, especially if you want something other than a noisy club or party.
In addition to the relaxation and mood-boosting effects of the crafting process, there is the satisfaction of the product. There’s nothing like eating a home-baked dessert, putting on a home-sewn skirt or hand-knit hat, or looking at a piece of art on the wall, and being able to say “I made that!” Making something beautiful and/or usable is an accomplishment to be proud of, and psychologists say that a feeling of self-efficacy is important to mental health.
You might have heard that crossword puzzles and brain-teasers can slow cognitive decline as people age. Neuroscientists are now studying whether crafting has a similar effect, and the results so far look promising.
Of course, you don’t need to know or care about the health benefits of crafting to enjoy it. So go ahead and learn a new craft, or spend some time on an old favorite, and have fun!