Crafting and Mental Health
At Cotton Clara we’re firm believers in the positive power of crafting and creativity, and the beneficial impact on mental health. We know through our own personal experiences the benefits even just an hour of stitching can achieve but what exactly are the benefits of crafting on our mental health and why?
There has been significant research undertaken in recent years suggesting that crafting isn't just a way to pass the time; it can improve your mood, diminish anxiety and increase happiness.
In 2017 a report was published by the Government titled Creative Health: The Arts for Health & Wellbeing*. It included significant evidence and examples of creative activities having a positive effect for individuals and summarised three key takeouts:
- The arts can help keep us well, aid our recovery and support longer lives better lived.
- The arts can help meet major challenges facing health and social care: ageing, long-term conditions, loneliness and mental health.
- The arts can help save money in the health service and social care.
In 2018 a study** involving 50,000 people in the UK - looked at how being creative can help us to manage our mood and ultimately feel happier. The research shows there are three main ways we use creativity as coping mechanisms to manage our emotions:
- As a distraction tool i.e. using creativity to avoid stress.
- As a contemplation tool i.e. using creativity to give us the mind space to reassess problems in our lives and make plans.
- As a means of self-development to face challenges by building up self-esteem and confidence.
The fabulous Knit for Peace did some research to show the positive health benefits of knitting and found it can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce depression and anxiety
- Slow the onset of dementia
- Be as relaxing as yoga
- Distract from chronic pain
- Increase the sense of wellbeing
- Reduce loneliness and isolation, and increase the sense of usefulness and inclusion in society.
Wow, knitting is a superpower! We think you can substitute knitting for any kind of hands on crafting though - embroidery included - and reap similar benefits.
And last year the Crafts Council published an article detailing four reasons why crafting was good for your mental health. They shared details of research by University College London showing engaging with visual arts can diminish anxiety and also quoted a study of young women that showed sewing contributed to their positive psychological well being through “a sense of pride and enjoyment”.
So the scientific research proving the link between crafting and creativity and positive mental health has been around for a number of years - indeed history shows the use of basketry courses to relieve anxiety in soldiers in the first world war - but obviously the pandemic and enforced lockdowns of the last twelve months resulted in a massive increase in people looking for help with their mental health. And where did they turn? To crafting! A survey of 1,500 people by Lovecrafts.com discovered 96% of them used crafting to improve their mental health in 2020.
One of the specific ways crafting helps with mental wellbeing is by helping to achieve a state of mindfulness. We refer to mindfulness a lot on our social media channels and the blog but what exactly is it?
The NHS definition of mindfulness is:
“Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you […] mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.”
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience things that we have been taking for granted through new eyes. This is how mindfulness helps mental wellbeing.
It’s about reminding yourself to fully take notice of your thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Mindfulness is about taking your attention away from the world around you and focusing on the world within you, and for lots of people one of the ways to find that mindful state of peace and calm is to do something creative.
Mindfulness is increasingly becoming a recognised and respected way of tackling personal stresses and anxieties, and embroidery - any type of crafting - is a great way to achieve mindfulness, as you don’t have to actively concentrate on omitting the world, the repetitive nature of stitching does it for you!
Positive self esteem is so important to maintaining a healthy sense of wellbeing - when our self-esteem is low, we are hyper-critical of our lives and who we are, and tend to feel negative about *everything*. People suffering from low self esteem also believe they’re less capable to take on the challenges that are thrown at us all as we navigate general life, tend to hide away from social situations and put a hard stop on trying new things, which all adds up to even lower self esteem. It's a vicious circle that can lead to further problems including depression and anxiety.
A simple way to improve self esteem, recommended by the experts including the NHS, is to try something new. To give yourself a challenge. Involving yourself in a creative activity, setting yourself the target of completing a crafting task like an embroidery kit is a great way to bolster self esteem through the sense of accomplishment when finished. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes you!
We know the positive impact crafting and creativity can have. We know through our own individual endeavours but also from the feedback we get from our customers. Here’s just a few of the inspiring comments we’ve had during the last few months:
We are increasingly seeing ourselves not as a craft company, but as a wellness company, what we aim to provide to you is a way of relaxing, reducing your stress and anxiety and increasing your happiness. We want to do this by providing kits and tools that take the fuss and difficulty out of crafting, letting you get on with our simple, easy to follow kits and get the most benefit from them.
*Creative Health: The Arts for Health & Wellbeing
**Great British Creativity Test