Crafting for Mental Health

It’s currently Mental Health Awareness Week and I couldn’t let it pass without discussing how great crafting is for your wellbeing. It’s meditative, calming, anxiety reducing and allows your brain to focus on something outside of anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems.

“Research suggests that crafting is much more than just an outlet for personal expression or a way to pass the time. Crafting can help reduce anxiety, improve mood, and increase happiness, all of which can help fight depression.” Laura Johnson, writer.

My journey

I first became a “crafter” in March 2013 when I learnt to knit, although I’ve always enjoyed being creative. Learning to knit was initially a way to distract my hands and brain from some new anxieties - a very good friend of mine suggested the craft to me as it helped with her mental health, so she took me yarn shopping, and I gave it a go. I have to admit I was looking at her with a good ol’ side-eye at first – “Me? Knitting? Surely not!” But she wasn’t wrong. Once I had gotten over the initial frustration of learning (after resorting to videos intended for children on YouTube) I was lost in a world of knits and purls (it’s where my business name comes from!) and an obsession was born.

Once I could mindlessly knit away, I was both amazed and relieved at the benefits I felt - the distraction from my anxieties and stressors was such a pleasant surprise. Not to mention the absolute buzz from being productive without it being a chore and the thrill of seeing something I had created from scratch in use or on display – just out there in the world because of my hands. I honestly believe it changed my life – it gave me a new coping mechanism, a welcome distraction from a busy brain, and opened doors to whole new communities of friends and peers, both online and in person.

Since then, a pattern has emerged: life gets hard -> I learn a new craft. In 2014, when I was at the start of long, difficult struggle with fertility, I learnt to crochet. In 2015, when my Stepdad’s health dramatically declined, I learnt cross stitch. When he passed away after a long battle in hospital in 2017, I learnt embroidery. In 2020, when lockdown fatigue set in, I learnt to needle punch. These have been some of the most trying moments in my life and I cannot put into words the solace I found in all sorts of stitching. When life throws me a curveball, I try to dodge it with some form of textiles and frantic crafting. It may not be conventional, but it works for me, and I’m not alone.

“Loss and creativity are two essential parts of the human experience, and when we experience loss personally, creativity might just be the best way out” - Dr. Shelley Carson

On the Up

Last year, published a report surveying 1,500 participants that found “96% have used crafting to improve their mental health this year, along with music and exercise”. Their web traffic was also way up compared to the previous year, with 73% of those visitors being new to the site. This suggests that not only were existing crafters creating more, but more and more newbies are turning to needlecrafts and visual arts as an outlet.

“When you’re concentrating on following a pattern or planning which fabrics to use, your brain isn’t allowed to wonder into the dark corners where anxiety and other things live” - Nat Schwarz