4 Ways Crafting Fuels Our Brain, Boosts Our Mood

It’s February, the epicenter of the “holiday drought”  between New Years Day and Easter (Valentine’s Day doesn’t count). Not much is happening in this season of gray skies, dirty snowbanks and muddy trails. For those of us in the northern Midwest, summer is but wishful whimsy and for many, running off to sunnier climates isn’t an option. Whether or not you’re plagued with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it’s a time of year that can give birth to the blues.

My remedy? Crafting.

Crafting is a form of creativity that is available to any of us with a sewing machine, a hammer and nails, knitting needles or paint brushes. My preferred creative process is writing, but I also enjoy sewing, knitting, macrame and sketching. I’ve decided it’s time to up the creativity options with a few crafts.

Winter was prime crafting season when our kids were little. We homeschooled and once the required subjects were covered for the day, we pulled out the craft supplies and Legos. I recall a winter where duct tape and every cardboard box in the house were commissioned for a construction project that went on for days. As the boys grew older, crafts were replaced by musical instruments. Drums, guitars, violin and piano fueled their creativity and I really didn’t mind the noise (I mean music).

All of us are equipped with the need and the ability to create. It’s in our DNA. For some of us, cooking is our creative outlet — our craft. For others, it’s woodworking. Whatever your preferred endeavor, you might be interested to know that exercising your creative muscles results in more than a nicely browned apple pie or a new lamp base.

Exercising your creative muscles results in more than a nicely browned apple pie or a new lamp base. Crafting is good for your brain and for your spirit. Share on X

There’s plenty of research to prove it, but because I want to save you time for crafting, I’ve boiled it down for you.

4 Benefits of Crafting and Creativity

  • Improved mood. When you do something pleasurable, like baking a cake or working with stained glass, your brain releases dopamine, your own personal anti-depressant. CNN reports a study of 3,500 knitters found “81 percent of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting. More than half reported feeling ‘very happy.’ Crafting can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression or chronic pain, experts say. It may also ease stress, increase happiness and protect the brain from damage caused by aging.”
  • Sharper minds. An estimated 35 million people live with dementia. In just 30 years, that figure is expected to more than triple. As reported by CNN, studies have found intellectually stimulating activities, such as working the crossword puzzle or putting together a model, can significantly delay dementia. A friend of mine engages residents at a home for senior citizens in regular art classes. Her efforts have done more to stimulate their brains and improve their dispositions than all the movies on the Hallmark channel.
  • Better self-image. Crafting improves how we feel about ourselves. “Self-efficacy” (the belief in your ability to succeed) is key to how we take on challenges and respond to disappointments in life. If I can figure out a complicated knitting pattern, perhaps I can also handle a difficult situation with a loved one.
  • Pleasing God. Look around you. Everywhere there is evidence of God’s creativity. The One who created us in his image placed in us the potential and desire to create. He expects us to follow his example. My crafting doesn’t compare with the grandeur of The Grand Canyon or the beauty of a perfectly formed, fragrant rose. But, our efforts attest to the complexity of our beings and to our ability to emulate God’s creativity.

I watched all these benefits in action a few winters ago when one of our sons moved home for a season to get a handle on the anxiety and depression that were weighing him down. While he made lifestyle changes and underwent a form of therapy to rein in the anxiety, his greatest therapy came in the hours he spent in our garage crafting with wood. He made tables, skateboards, wall hangings, lamp bases. And, covered in sawdust, he found his way back to health.

We’ve got a lot of cold, wet, ugly days ahead of us here in the Midwest. Since there are no dinner parties planned at my house until at least Easter, I’ve turned my dining room table into “Craft Central”. Better than Netflix (most of the time) and more rewarding than cleaning out closets, crafting is my calling until the grass turns green. Join me?

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