Mental Health Mondays: Crafting

We are not mental health professionals. If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like anxiety or depression, or they are impacting your daily life, please reach out to professionals who can help you. If you need immediate help, use the National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255, which offers online chats as well. Jewish Community Services also offer help to people experiencing emotional crises.

We aim to provide some tips and guides to help those who are self-isolating and to connect with our JMM community. These ideas might not work for everyone, but we hope that by starting the conversation about mental health, we can inspire you to take a moment to breathe and reflect on what you need today to feel good.

Being in quarantine has led many people to look for and pick up new crafting activities such as knitting, sewing, and baking. This is not a new phenomenon, as we can look back to the adult coloring book craze of 2015, where over $12 million adult coloring books sold. But why are these kinds of activities so appealing when people are stressed? There hasn’t been a lot of research on the mental health benefits of crafting, but people often claim that their hobbies help keep them happy and balanced.

This vintage coloring book comes from Bragar-Gutman’s department store. Today there are lots of different kinds of coloring books for folks young and old. Check out #ColorOurCollections for a ton of free, Museum-themed options!

A possible theory is the ability to tap into the phenomenon dubbed the “flow”, by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He describes the flow as a state of ecstasy for a creator, who is so focused on their work that they pay no attention to the outside world. This state makes them feel like music or words are coming out freely from them, and they lose sense of their body, maybe even forgetting that they are hungry or tired. He describes it more in this Ted talk, speaking specifically of those who are highly trained and skilled in their fields. Though this Ted talk is a little dated, Csikszentmihalyi has continuously commented on different trends and fads for stress-relief, like coloring pages for adults. By focusing completely on a specific task, such as a complex page in a coloring book, someone can find that similar flow state of timelessness. They are able to let go of troubles on their mind and focus on the task at hand for a few moments. Though coloring is not a substitute for proper therapy (which we talked about last week) focusing on a single, creative task, can be a way to achieve the feeling of the flow and find respite from life’s worries.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi originally started his career by figuring out why people who had experienced World War II were still unhappy after they had found security in jobs and homes after the war.

Additionally, getting creative can help someone’s sense of accomplishment. By knitting a scarf or painting a landscape, being able to see the fruits of your labor on display is a huge boost to confidence and can even release feel-good hormones. The effects are multiplied when sharing these creative endeavors with friends. Being able to create beautiful gifts for those you love can strengthen your relationships and shows people that you’re thinking of them.

Arts and crafts are not just for young ones. Crafting can help improve brain activity and possibly even help counter-act neurological diseases like dementia. More study needs to be done to prove these benefits, but certain crafts can definitely improve finger and hand dexterity, keep people practicing math, and encourage our brains to think differently than we do in our daily lives. There are so many different crafts to choose from, it’s worth a try!

I’ve been working on this quilt for years. Though I’m still not finished, it’s amazing to look at all the pieces come together into a huge masterpiece!

If you are able to buy the supplies, my favorite craft is knitting. I love being able to create garments out of just yarn and needles, and finding new patterns. And the best part is, people always love getting hand-knitted scarves, hats, and gloves for holiday and birthday presents.

Miniature painting is a great way to develop skills and creativity. This piece was created by Benet Reynolds, @holyfireman on Instagram.

Another supply-heavy but the unique craft is mini painting. A favorite of this writer’s partner, miniature painting, or other types of 3D painting is a great way to get into art. You don’t have to figure out how something looks on a canvas, you simply color in the different parts of a mini, almost like a 3D coloring book! There are lots of techniques and styles to master as well, making it a great, long-term hobby.

If you don’t have access to a lot of supplies, you can always look into origami. While the art of paper folding may seem simple, there are lots of designs and shapes to create to make masterpieces to display. And this is a great craft to share with a little one! May we suggest trying out a hopping paper frog as your first origami attempt?

From coloring books to making candles, to hand lettering to woodworking, there are so many ways to engage your hands and improve your mood. Try something out this week and share the results with us! Or, if you’re a veteran crafter, show us some pics of your favorite finished piece! We’d love to hear from you.


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