For a few years now, an emphasis has increasingly been placed on self-care. Whether it takes the form of bubble-baths, meditating, or generally doing whatever it is that makes you feel relaxed, mental health has a massive place in our world. Young people are constantly reminded to set aside time to gauge where they’re at mentally, and mental health days are a valid reason for taking days off from work or school in a way that is a complete reversal from the aims for perfect attendance that dominated the past. Overall, society is beginning to approach mental health as an essential aspect of an individual’s overall well-being, and the outlook is a lot more, well, healthy.
Hobbies, and arts and crafts in particular, have an interesting impact on our mental health. In an article in the New York Times, Jane Brody chronicles her journey with knitting. Like her, I was taught to knit at an early age, but with a mind and body too energetic and hyperactive to sit still, it was put on the back burner until I reached university. Interestingly, knitting is having a resurgence around the globe: my sister recently showed me the blanket she’d crocheted, and according to statistics from the Craft Yarn Council, a third of women between the ages of 25 and 35 now knit or crochet, with numbers only on the rise as the knitters teach novices. On their website, the Council brags about the positive health effects of knitting, which include feelings of accomplishment and raised confidence, reduced stress and improved mood. Moreover, knitting helps us to stay in the moment, thus stopping us from ruminating on our problems, reducing stress, and lowering both our blood pressure and heart-rate. In a survey among the clinically depressed conducted by wellness coach Betsan Corkhill, 54% reported that knitting made them feel happy or very happy, and the focus necessary for knitting can even improve children’s concentration and maths skills. It’s also been used as a form of therapy to help smokers or compulsive eaters to quit thanks to preoccupied hands and minds.
And it’s not just knitting that has such positive effects. Arts and crafts groups are becoming increasingly popular as a part of treatment programs in mental health wards, with research suggesting that activities such as painting, clay modelling, drawing, and knitting or crocheting have a hugely positive impact on our mental health. The rise of adult colouring books is only symptomatic of this – in letting ourselves colour inside or outside the lines, picking shades that work well together, and generally stopping the panic of our brains, we’re practising healthy habits with incredibly positive effects. It’s becoming more and more critical in the fast-pace of today’s world to keep up those creative hobbies that keep our hands and minds both preoccupied and in the moment.
Personally, I’ve found setting aside time for creative hobbies has helped me enormously. Whenever I’m stressed about readings, work, or assignments, I’m able to set aside some time, pick up a laptop or notepad, and start writing. Other days, I’ll play the piano or draw a picture to stop myself overthinking that one interaction from last week, or even last year. And more and more, I’m finding myself putting on some of my favourite noughties’ bangers and knitting.
Whether you find solace in painting, colouring in, playing an instrument, or knitting, the positive effects of putting aside time for yourself are only waiting to be felt.