Why Crafting is Good For Your Health

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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!

Photo by Kristina Balić on Unsplash

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.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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!

 

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Cutting Myself Some Slack

Today I was going to get up at nine, start writing at ten, work on reading with Luz at around eleven-thirty, and then make some very overdue phone calls. I’ve been having trouble keeping up with everyday life tasks such as paying bills, making various appointments, homeschooling my daughter, keeping the house semi-clean… you know, the kind of things that everyone else seems to do without even thinking about it. I decided my problem was that I didn’t have a specific time set aside each day for any of these tasks. When I set up my planner for this week (yesterday, because that’s another thing I have trouble keeping up with), I scheduled these tasks, and last night I made sure to set my alarm.

After waking repeatedly through the night, I pressed snooze for a whole hour this morning and woke up at ten. Sometime after eleven, I realized I desperately needed to grocery shop, but I knew there was no way I was going to make it to the store. I ordered groceries online for Publix to deliver. By the time I was done, it was past noon and I hadn’t eaten anything. I started making some food, which of course prompted two of my kids to ask me to make food for them, too. Finally, after a brief stint as a short-order cook, I ate my first meal of the day. This happens much more often than it should. I actually have a reminder set on my phone for 1pm every day to tell me to eat, because I tend to get busy and forget to eat until mid-afternoon.

After I ate, I did manage to make one phone call before realizing how much pain I was in. I mean absolutely severe physical pain. And that’s when I had to remind myself that sure, scheduling time for certain tasks would probably be helpful, but my trouble goes deeper than that.

See, I suffer from chronic pain and exhaustion that I’m pretty sure are due to fibromyalgia. I haven’t yet gotten a diagnosis (remember those appointments that I still have to make?), but I tick off most of the red flags and my primary care doctor thinks it’s likely. I also suffer from depression and anxiety, and over the past month or so I’ve weaned off one antidepressant and started another. Not only has this been absolute hell psychologically, but my physical pain has increased immensely. So today, my entire body is aching and my head is about to explode. You know how you feel when you have the flu? That achiness you feel throughout your bones and even your skin? Add a strained lower back, and that’s how I feel now.

I was feeling guilty for not sticking to my schedule, for not doing the things that appear to be so easy for everyone else. I had to stop and consciously adjust my thinking. I had to remind myself that I actually did accomplish things today. I bought groceries (they were delivered as I wrote this post). I made lunch for two of the kids. I made an appointment for my daughter to get a haircut. I took care of myself: I showered, dressed, ate, and took my medication. This is important; it’s not something I can always do. And now I’m lying in bed. I have my coffee, my sketchbook, and my knitting next to my bed on my Räskog cart. I took some ibuprofen. And I’m not going to feel guilty for having reached my limit.