Making is a process of creating something, often with your hands. It’s a way to express yourself, and can be used as a tool for stress relief or creativity. In fact, it’s been proven to have many positive effects on the brain and body, ranging from improving mental health to lowering your risk for debilitating conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The benefits of making are many and varied, so it’s no surprise that this activity is increasingly being incorporated into our health routines. In fact, a recent study called ‘The Connection Between Art, Healing and Public Health’ found that people dealing with various health concerns showed multiple benefits of crafting including improved moods, more social interaction and enhanced self-esteem.
Crafts are also known for improving connectivity between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which may help to protect against mental health issues like depression and anxiety. This is due to the fact that when we create, our brains trigger the release of dopamine, a chemical that increases focus and concentration and makes us feel happy and productive.
This effect is also known as flow state, and is thought to be characterized by increased blood flow to the medial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain responsible for reward and motivation. According to a 2017 paper in the journal The Arts in Psychotherapy, when participants completed three different art activities — coloring in a mandala, doodling and drawing freely on a blank sheet of paper — the blood flow to the medial prefrontal cortical areas of their brains jumped during those activities.
Having the ability to creatively express yourself is a vital part of being healthy, says psychologist Dr Kaimal. As an art therapist, she often sees how making art can help people deal with stress, grief and other negative emotions.
In one of her clinical sessions with a student who was suffering from severe depression, Kaimal said she had the student draw a picture. “It was a very simple thing,” she recalls, “but it changed her entire mood. She felt like she was able to imagine a future, a different life.”
Another study published in the journal Art Therapy suggests that handling clay can reduce feelings of depression by decreasing stress and anxiety. This is likely because clay work encourages the creation of shapes and patterns, which helps to reduce negative thoughts about our lives.
There are also plenty of other ways to get your creative juices flowing, from painting or sculpting to writing and even cooking. So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, there’s always something new to learn.
It’s been shown to boost psychological resilience and productivity, allowing people to better cope with daily challenges. This is particularly important for people with a mental health condition, as it can be difficult to focus and stay motivated when feeling low.
Creating is also a great way to help relieve the symptoms of physical illness, such as pain and nausea. Studies have shown that doing handicrafts such as embroidery or crocheting can help ease physical discomfort and reduce the intensity of pain for people who are recovering from surgery, chemotherapy or other medical treatments.