If your mental health feels less than stellar these days, you're not alone.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental health condition, including anxiety, depression, and other chronic issues.
All of us have felt sad and anxious due to things outside of our control, like world events, difficult relationships, stress at work, and personal tragedy.
But here's encouraging news: There are some things we can control in this journey towards better mental wellbeing.
One great strategy is picking up a crafting hobby.
Whether you choose to draw, paint, sculpt, knit, make sublimation prints, mold with epoxy, or experiment with other art forms, working on a creative activity can help you on your journey to feeling better.
Here are 7 wonderful ways crafting can improve your mental health, according to experts.
#1 - Crafting relieves stress and anxiety.
Crafting is a great way to relieve stress that builds up from things like pressure at work, difficult relationships, or recurring worries.
“Studies have shown that engaging in creative activities, such as knitting or painting, can lower levels of cortisol (the hormone responsible for our stress response)," says licensed therapist Gary Tucker. "This can lead to a more relaxed and positive state of mind.”
High cortisol is linked to later health problems, like heart disease and high blood pressure, so lowering it is a win for both your physical and mental wellbeing.
#2 - Crafting encourages mindfulness and focus.
When you're deep into a craft that you love, it often feels like the rest of the world melts away. While crafting, your mind gets a break from worry and negative thoughts and can focus on something positive instead.
“Crafting naturally brings you into the present moment," says licensed marriage and family therapist Jennifer Worley. “As you concentrate on each detail and repetitive motion, you become more attuned to the here and now, pushing away ruminative thoughts.”
If you struggle to stay focused on the task at hand, a fun creative project might be just the thing you need.
#3 - Crafting builds your self-confidence.
Crafting can help you feel better about yourself, says licensed mental health counselor Miriam Kogan. "Crafting can provide a sense of accomplishment. Completing a project, no matter how small, can boost your self-esteem and confidence."
That boosted self esteem can start to show up in other areas of your life, giving you courage to complete other projects that may have once seemed overwhelming. It can also have positive effects on your social life by helping you build new relationships (see #6).
#4 - Crafting keeps your mind sharp.
Crafting exercises your brain. You'll be thinking, focusing, applying precise movements, and above all, being creative.
"Crafting also improves brain productivity and cognitive skills," says Dr. Ronald J. Swatzyna. "It involves repetitive motion and requires concentration, which enhances brain functioning, memory, and problem-solving abilities."
In other words, when you're making art, you're improving your physical and mental health by helping your brain stay sharp and healthy for the long term.
#5 - Crafting gives you a sense of purpose.
People who wake up feeling motivated usually have some sort of goals or projects on their plate. But when there's nothing to work on, it's harder to get that mental boost.
Crafting gives you a reason to feel excited about the day. That excitement to complete something or build a new skill is what gives a sense of purpose to your days.
“For those who may be experiencing shifts in their life—be it retirement, recuperation from an illness, or any other form of transition—crafting can provide that much-needed structure and routine, infusing their days with purpose and direction,” says clinical psychologist R. Y. Langham.
#6 - Crafting connects you with others.
Crafting opens you up to a wide world of crafters on the journey with you. And you already have something to talk about—sharing your latest project, asking a question, or commenting on others' creations.
Over time, these connections can turn into friends, forming long-lasting friendships that make life rich.
“Crafting workshops, classes, or even online communities provide an opportunity to socialize and exchange ideas with like-minded individuals," says licensed clinical social worker Heather Wilson. "This can help combat feelings of isolation or loneliness.”
#7 - Crafting helps you express emotions in a healthy way.
It's sometimes difficult to express the feelings we're holding inside. Maybe you've tried to write things down in a journal, but you haven't been able to articulate them. Or you want to share your experiences with a friend, but you're struggling to find the words. Crafting gives you more options.
“Crafting provides an alternative medium to express emotions," says licensed family and marriage therapist Kim Horman. "It allows you to materialize feelings, which can be therapeutic. Art therapy has been utilized for decades as a way to help individuals explore and express emotions they might find difficult to convey otherwise.”
So the next time you feel overwhelmed with emotion and don't know what to say, you can try expressing yourself through a craft or art project instead.
Take steps toward better mental health with a crafting hobby
It's clear that crafting has tons of mental health benefits, helping you express your emotions, kick anxiety to the curb, and feel more purpose in your everyday life. There are so many benefits to building a crafting hobby, and it's easier than ever to get started with so many resources available for free online.
Now it's your turn. What type of crafting or art sounds most fun to you? Are you a sketcher, digital painter, or a DIY craft enthusiast?
Gathering your supplies in one place will make it easier to get started. And there's no pressure to do long crafting sessions, which can be overwhelming. Instead, you can start exercising your creativity in a few minutes each day.
Looking for new crafts to try? Check out our DIY crafting tutorials about sublimation, epoxy, UV resin, and more:
- Make a Sublimation Tumbler
- Create Your First Epoxy Tumbler
- Get Started with UV Resin
- Learn about Laser Engraving
Finally, if you'd like to connect with a supportive community of crafters, we'd love to invite you to our MakerFlo Facebook Group. It's a great place to find inspiration for your own crafts, ask questions, and meet new people with common interests.
As we wrap up this article, it's important to note that mental health is not a one-size-fits-all issue, and it's not always solved just by picking up a new hobby. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, please reach out for help. You can call or text 988, or at 988lifeline.org to reach NAMI's 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.