There are those who pooh-pooh crafts as a waste of time, old-fashioned, boring or just for kids. If you fall into this category, it’s time to take a second look.
The benefits of handcrafting for children are well documented. Countless studies show how kids grow physically and emotionally when they work with their hands. They not only develop fine-motor skills but also self-control, patience and self-esteem.
But before you write off crafts as merely child’s play, consider an article Time magazine published last year: The Health Perks of Arts and Crafts for Adults—Why the Elderly Should Go DIY, by Alexandra Sifferlin. She reports that senior citizens who participate in artistic pursuits and hand crafts are less likely to develop cognitive impairment because of the increased brain activity.
A similar article in the Washington Post by Amanda Mascarelli, Might Crafts Such as Knitting Offer Long-Term Health Benefits?, sited a Mayo Clinic study of 1,321 senior citizens. The seniors who participated in crafting, playing games and reading, “were 30-50% less likely to have mild cognitive impairment”. These activities engage several of the brain’s lobes and “calling on all of these regions stimulates neural connections and keeps the connectivity working quickly and efficiently.”
So of course we must ask, if handcrafting is beneficial to children and seniors, what about the rest of us?
CNN.com addressed this very issue in a 2014 article, This Is Your Brain on Crafting. The author, Jacque Wilson, writes that there is agreement in the mental health community that crafting may help adults who suffer from anxiety, depression and chronic pain. Catherine Carey Levisay, a clinical neuropsychologist, explains:
“There’s promising evidence coming out to support what a lot of crafters have known anecdotally for quite some time…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.”
Levisay equates the act of crafting to finding your “flow”, a state of mind where one is completely immersed in the task at hand, seemingly not aware of time passing. The term, flow, was first described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who asserts that finding moments of flow is the key to happiness (view his TED talk). The effects of flow are similar to those of meditation which has been proven to reduce stress and fight inflammation.
If you’re new to crafting or you’re convinced that you aren’t good with your hands, finding the right project is all important. Attempt something too complicated and you’ll end up frustrated and discouraged. You wouldn’t be alone though. Check out this hysterical website called Pinterestfail.com: where good intentions come to die. Start small and whatever you do, don’t spend a lot on supplies. There are plenty of crafts you can do with a pair of scissors, some scrapbook paper and glue. Try these paper flowers—they’re quick, inexpensive and adorable. If you’re feeling more ambitious, try making these paper dahlias—although more time consuming, they’re easy and make a big impact.
If you’re a life-long crafter like me, you’ll no doubt keep your creative spark alive….whatever your age. But if you’re not naturally inclined to craft, give it a try. Gather a few friends, find an easy project, throw some wine in the mix and see what happens. I’m confident that you’ll find your flow and lose yourself in the creative process….no matter what your end result looks like!
Don’t forget to send me photos of what you create!