“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”
Did you know that making arts and crafts helps to relieve stress in your body? I’ve been making crafts for most of my life and I can attest to this claim. My mom got me started on making crafts when I was still a child and I carried it through into adulthood.
I loved crafting with any medium, including painting ceramic ornaments, cross-stitching and sewing, knotting bracelets with embroidery thread, and even making perler bead designs. I also enjoyed colouring, drawing, tracing and lettering.
I felt at peace whenever I was creating something. I didn’t even have to be particularly good at it. The act of creation itself was what I most enjoyed. It’s no wonder I started crafting again with renewed vigour when I found myself undergoing an extremely stressful season in my life.
Crafting was the only activity that brought me joy and peace when my mind was in turmoil and it was all I could do to relax at the end of a long, hard day. Crafting provided a distraction from the intense worries that were plaguing my mind by allowing me to enter a state of concentration where I could direct my focus to the project at hand and not have to think about anything else.
When I couldn’t calm my mind, crafting acted like a method of meditation and gave me the relief I needed. I could feel the tension in my muscles slipping away as I measured and cut paper and designed handmade greeting cards. I made hundreds of cards in the span of one year during the most difficult season of my life.
Why does crafting relieve stress?
Let’s take a quick look at the neuroscience behind this. The act of creation, or creative thinking, increases dopamine levels in our brain, according to an article titled “The Mental Health Benefits of Art Are For Everyone” written by Deane and Dr. Patrick Alban. WebMD defines dopamine as “a type of neurotransmitter… [that] plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It’s a big part of our unique human ability to think and plan. It helps us strive, focus, and find things interesting.”
Every time we engage in a new or complex activity, such as creating something, our brain creates new connections between brain cells in a process called neuroplasticity and releases dopamine into our brain cells (Alban).
Deane and Dr. Patrick Alban continue on to argue that: “Crafting hobbies of all kinds — knitting, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography, woodworking, gardening, and do-it-yourself home repair — increase dopamine, ward off depression, and protect the brain from aging.”
When we create something, it boosts our self-esteem, gives us a sense of achievement and allows us to forget about our pain for a while. In addition, studies have found that the creation of art even lowers levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body (Alban).
Presently, art therapy is being used to help people with anxiety, depression, addictions, PTSD, chronic pain, cancer, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and other serious physical and mental health conditions (Alban).
Doesn’t it make you happy to know that crafting is therapeutically good for you? Now that you know the benefits crafting has on your brain and body, you no longer have to feel guilty about spending countless hours creating the things you love. Your mental health needs it!
And remember, you don’t have to be artistic to make something creative. It doesn’t even have to look good and you certainly don’t have to show it to anyone. You can even throw it out afterwards if you don’t want to keep it (although I would recommend displaying your handmade creations in your own private space, such as a home office, or placing them in a box for you to look at later).
If you need some ideas, the following is a list of creative activities that you can do to help relieve your stress.
20 Creative Activities That Help to Relieve Stress
1. Doodle or scribble in a notebook. Draw yourself as a superhero or as a cartoon in a comic strip. Draw your favourite place to spend time. Draw with chalk on a chalkboard or sidewalk. You don’t need to have any skills at drawing. Simply put pen or pencil to the page and let your hand move across it.
2. Make a cut-and-paste collage. Cut pictures and words out of a flyer, newspaper or magazine and paste them on poster board. Make a collage of your perfect day or choose pictures based on your favourite quote. Alternatively, make a family history collage with old family photographs.
3. Try origami, which is the Japanese art of paper folding into shapes, such as birds and animals. There are many tutorials available on Pinterest.
4. Take photographs of things you think are beautiful. Print your pictures and frame them. Then hang them on your walls as a reminder of what you find beautiful. For example, I love taking pictures of butterflies, flowers, roads or train tracks, and trees.
5. Make a handmade thank you card for someone who has been a great help to you or an encouragement card for someone who needs their spirits uplifted.
6. Make a stuffed animal or doll. Make clothes for your doll. Try this “No-Sew Sock Bunny” Tutorial by One Little Project.
7. Create a mini-diorama of a scene you love using items you find in your home. Make a dollhouse and the furniture to go inside of it. Try this “Cardboard Castle” Tutorial by Adventure in a Box.
8. Make art with your fingerprints, such as fingerprint magnets on glass beads or bottle caps. Try this “Thumbprint Heart Glass Magnet” Tutorial by Rhythms of Play.
9. Paint a canvas using the “white on white” method. First, pick a flower or leaf from your yard or during a nature walk and place it on a white canvas (a fern leaf looks especially lovely). Then, paint over it with white paint until the entire canvas is covered in white. The texture of the flower or leaf will still be visible underneath.
10. Paint a rock and hide it somewhere in a public place for a random person to find.
11. Make a snowflake out of paper. Try this “Paper Snowflake” Tutorial by Tifani Lyn.
12. Go for a walk in nature and collect natural materials, such as leaves, sticks, dirt, clay, etc. to create a decorative piece for your home, such as this lovely “Driftwood Orb” by Made in a Day.
13. If you like sewing, try quilting or cross-stitching.
14. Make something useful from scrap wood, such as a farmhouse coat rack. Get the coat rack tutorial here.
15. Knit or crochet a hat, scarf, mittens, or even a blanket.
16. Make jewellery, such as knotted bracelets or beaded necklaces.
17. Practice hand lettering and draw a motivational word on poster board or paint it on wood.
18. Bake a cake, muffins or cupcakes and decorate them with different colours of frosting.
19. Redecorate a room. When I was a teenager, I used to change the setup of my room every few months by moving the furniture around just to add a little variety in my life.
20. Decorate a treasure box to store all your treasured memories, photos or keepsakes, like this lovely sheet music “Treasure Box” by The Feathered Nest.
As you work on a craft project, take a deep breath and let the stresses of your life roll off your shoulders. Make sure to have fun, too!
- WebMD, “What is Dopamine?”
- Alban, Deane and Dr. Patrick, “The Mental Health Benefits of Art Are For Everyone”
I hope that you will find peace and inspiration through my blog and handmade creations!
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