Depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions are higher in prevalence than ever before. Anxiety, in particular, plagues about 40 million individuals 18 or older in the United States, which is 18% of the population. Depression, meanwhile, affects about 6.7% of the population in any given year.
Often, one suffers from more than just one psychiatric condition. Fortunately, while medication can be effective, there are other ways to better one’s mental health. (This also applies to individuals not necessarily diagnosed with a mental illness.) Crafting is one hobby that can positively influence one’s mental health. This article will discuss the health benefits of crafting.
It’s not surprising to me that recent studies are finding that complex crafting is good for mental health. The repetitive mindfulness of knitting, for example, has been likened to meditation. When 3,545 knitters were surveyed online by Betsan Corkhill, a knitting therapist, more than half of those who responded said they felt “very happy” after knitting. Many of them did it specifically for relaxation and stress relief. Those who knitted more frequently reported more mental and emotional relief than those who did it less frequently.
Is it just working with needle and thread that has these effects? No. Neuroscientists are studying other forms of creativity and finding that activities like cooking, drawing, cake decorating, photography, art, music and even doing crossword puzzles are beneficial, according to Time magazine.
Little research has been done specifically on crafting, but neuroscientists are beginning to see how studies on cognitive activities such as doing crossword puzzles might also apply to someone who does complex quilting patterns. Others are drawing connections between the mental health benefits of meditation and the zen reached while painting or sculpting.
“There’s promising evidence coming out to support what a lot of crafters have known anecdotally for quite some time,” says Catherine Carey Levisay, a clinical neuropsychologist and wife of Craftsy.com CEO John Levisay. “And that’s that creating — whether it be through art, music, cooking, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography (or) cake decorating — is beneficial to us in a number of important ways.”
It is thought that crafting and similar hobbies release dopamine, which is a natural antidepressant and the reward-based chemical that our brains emit to trigger a wanted behavior. Serotonin, another neurotransmitter, is strongly associated with crafting and creative hobbies.
Ultimately, the creativity involved with crafting helps reinforce good feelings, and it has been shown to have health benefits as far ranging as reducing aging and its often concomitant cognitive impairment.
Perhaps it’s time for me to make my creativity a priority in my life again. I’ll take some non-medicinal, feel-good highs as often as I can get them. How about you?