Craft yourself Calm

Katherine Khullar

Picture of multiple hoops of embroidery and cross stitch

Why crafting is much more than just a fun hobby

Seoana from The Self Like Society

As the days continue to drag along in what’s beginning to feel like a perpetual lockdown, it’s more important than ever to take care of your mental health and well-being.

While it may be hard to carve out time for yourself right now, investing just a couple of hours a week into a creative endeavour will be hugely beneficial to your brain.

Not only is craft an outlet for personal expression, it’s also a proven way to reduce anxiety, improve your mood and help fight depression. For example, a 2018 university study published in the Journal of Psychology found that knitting and crocheting improved mental health, while the University of Oxford is running a programme called the Yarnfullness Project, which aims to understand more about the reported benefits of yarn-based craft on mental health. At the end of last year, a survey of 1,500 members of the general public discovered that a whopping 96% of people turned to crafting to improve their mental health. Not surprising considering how tumultuous 2020 turned out to be. So why does crafting make us feel so good?

Breaking the cycle

One of the things I’ve found most difficult to get used to in this ‘new normal’ is the monotony. As we go through the same daily routine, the days and weeks blur together into one ceaseless, exhausting cycle of working, eating and sleeping. Without the prospect of social interactions or spontaneous adventures to break up the cycle, it comes down to you and you alone to find ways to combat the tediousness. Enter craft.

Now, I’m no crafting queen. Due to a combination of a severe lack of patience and a case of cack-handedness, my creative projects often end up in one of two places: languishing in a dark and dusty cupboard, away from the judging eyes of others, or the bin. But with a whole heap of time on my hands and some free materials sent to me by my work, I decided to give it another go. And that’s the joy of crafting just for you - you don’t have to be good at it. There’s no pressure to complete a project with any finesse, heck, you don’t even need to finish at all if you don’t fancy it. The point is to take your mind away from the stresses and worries of what’s going on in the world and focus entirely on something that doesn’t come with a deadline, or restrictions. It’s just you and your materials of choice. As an added benefit, keeping your hands busy means that you’re not able to reach for your phone and get stuck into an endless cycle of scrolling through news sites and Instagram feeds. I’m sure I don’t need to preach about the harmful effects of social media, which have been exacerbated by living through a global pandemic. So having a reason not to have your phone glued to your hand is bloody brilliant, in my book.

Colour threads layed out in a heart shape

Express yourself

Another role craft can play during these strange times is to provide an outlet for us to express our hopes and anxieties. I for sure have found it difficult to articulate how I’ve been feeling over the past year. ‘Stressed’ doesn’t really cut it any more does it? And so having a way to get your emotions off your chest in a mindful way, without having to try to put it into words, can be a huge relief. Whatever your medium, be it embroidery thread, paint, yarn, ink, clay or anything else, you can pour your heart into it and relieve some of the tension that’s been building up inside you.

As part of a craftivism project I was involved in through work during the first lockdown, we were asked to embroider a message of hope onto an embroidery hoop. The results were both positive and poignant, as people expressed their thanks to the NHS, their desire to look after one another, and their belief that good times would come again. For myself and the rest of the group who took part, it helped us to cope with the feelings of helplessness and anxiety that were now a constant feature in our lives. It’s well documented that engaging in activism can help with wellbeing and give people a sense of community and purpose, which is exactly what this project did for us.

Whatever your reason for taking up crafting, think of it as an opportunity to unburden yourself of the realities and restrictions of life. There are no rules or tiers in creativity, so you are free to roam as far and wide as you please - your only limit being your imagination.

Written by Seoana from The Self Like Society

Picture of a girl with red hair wearing a headband, smiling

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