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Craft as Therapy

#CraftAsTherapy

I thought I’d look into crafting from a different point of view. If you ask a lot of crafters why they started, you’ll find quite a few of them give an answer relating to their health. I don’t know about you, but I use it as an escape and to have a bit of time for myself. I also find it has a childlike feel about it, going back to a time when things were simpler.

Did you know it can have therapeutic benefits for both our mental and physical health? According to many studies and much research, crafting can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, loneliness and even dementia.

There are lots of different ideas when it comes to craft as therapy, but they all aim to help you:

• gain a safe time and place for you

• understand and make sense of things

• resolve complicated feelings and find coping mechanisms

• communicate and express yourself

• challenge your brain to help find a better headspace

• gain a sense of achievement, pride and enjoyment

• relieve stress

• build self esteem

From a mental health perspective, therapy can be part of official treatment (e.g. from the NHS or a charity), something you discover on your own at home, or socially within your local community (e.g. a knitting group).

In a world where we always feel like we’re on the go, or have increased amounts of time staring at a screen, it gives us a chance to actually use our hands and create something.

Whether you’re a novice or expert, it’s not a competition. No one is judging you or your work!! In fact part of the fun is the learning, experimenting and seeing how things develop.

Whatever craft you chose, it allows you to immerse your thoughts purely into what you’re doing there and then, calming your mind and blocking out the noise inside your head. This could be a good distraction after a traumatic event or major lifestyle change. By trying something new, we are also challenging ourselves. This self-development can improve confidence not only with your craft, but within yourself and other areas of your life.

Did you get excited as a child when it was a new school year and you got a new pencil case / stationery? You can now relive this with your craft supplies too. You’ll be stalking the postie waiting for your crafty happy mail hehe. You might so enjoy organising your supplies and work space.

Craft-based activities have been an integral part of occupational therapy for many decades. For example, soldiers returning home from the First World War were taught to knit as a way of taking their minds off the pain and trauma they had experienced. This was as both diversional therapy (taking your mind off pain and negative thoughts), as well as skills-development geared towards re-entering the civilian workforce. Learning a craft gave them a sense of purpose.

The same can still be said for people today. This is down to the effort, multi-sensory engagement, repetitive actions and anticipation of satisfaction involved. The required focus and attention can provide a healthy distraction from other stresses. By using all of our senses, we engage in mindfulness, keeping us in the present moment, helping to regulate our emotions and dampen negative thoughts.

Another advantage of crafting is that it can be as social as you want it to be. A chance to take yourself away, or use it was an excuse to connect with others with a common interest. This can be in person or online – I know from networking that you can become good friends with people you’ve never met.

There are also benefits relating to helping to keep our brains active, improving memory, concentration and problem-solving – great for keeping dementia at bay.

It’s also used as physical therapy, for example after a stroke to help improve and  re-establish hand muscle memory.

This form of therapy is thought to be so effective within the medical world, that there are specific job roles to help offer it as part of patients’ treatment plans. 

As with all things, different things work for different people. If you’ve tried something that hasn’t helped, it’s an excuse to try something else. You could look at something music, dance or drama related. Or gardening, or even cooking? These proved to be very popular during Lockdown – how many people struggled to get flour and eggs at one point or another!! Over the past year, me and a couple of friends have been taking it in turns to bake. We then share our makes and have a little catch up on each other’s doorsteps whilst delivering.

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