Time was when we would all have been making something: knitting, sewing, painting, quilting, woodwork, pressing wild flowers, writing a journal, making pots or baskets, mending everything from clothes to lawnmowers. Then technology began to dominate our lives, such occupations often fell by the wayside and – perhaps in part a contributory factor – anxiety and depression escalated.
Crafting is both an enjoyable antidote to the speed and transitory nature of modern life and a way of socialising without pressure – knit and natter groups, for instance. With one in four people suffering mental health problems, it is also increasingly recognised as having a positive impact on our minds. ‘Making and mending things can help us make and mend ourselves,’ say Rosemary Davidson and Arzu Tahsin, the authors of Craftfulness (to be published by Quercus in October).
‘Making things with our hands activates different brain circuits to, say, office work,’ according to a report on the health benefits of knitting (knitforpeace.org.uk). The repetitive movement of knitting, likewise tapestry, quilting and similar crafts, promotes the release of the calming neurotransmitter serotonin, which also lifts mood and dulls pain.
Fascinatingly, all two-handed movements across the mid-line of our bodies (eg, playing the piano) are recognised as using a lot of brain capacity, leaving less room for negative thinking. Knitting and other forms of crafting can also be a form of mindfulness, producing the same alpha-wave pattern in the brain and helping the person to deal with feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.
Mental health charity Mind is right behind this trend. ‘We know that many people find craft activities to be great for their mental health, because they can help you switch off from day to-day pressures and turn negative thoughts or feelings into something positive,’ says Karen Bolton, head of community and events fundraising at Mind.
The charity is so convinced of the benefits that it has launched a Crafternoon campaign to encourage people to get together with friends, family or colleagues and make simple things –from happy jars to paper lanterns or, my favourite, a little lavender-filled teddy bear – and raise funds for Mind. Get a Crafternoon pack by registering online at mind.org.uk.
The Handmade Fair is also supporting Mind by selling Crafting Kits for business owners. These are intended to support employees’ wellbeing by encouraging them to take time out to get creative. All proceeds will go to Mind. Kirstie Allsopp, who presents the fair, says: ‘We want people to put down their mobile phones, pick up their craft materials and forget their stresses.’
Each Crafting Kit costs £20 and contains an inspiring range of materials and tools for ten to 20 people. To order, email firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘Handmade Fair Crafting Kit’ in the subject box.
FOR YOU: DISCOUNTED TICKETS TO THE HANDMADE FAIR
There’s no better day out for creative souls than The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace, with hands-on workshops, shopping for crafts and artisanal food products, plus interviews with key creative figures. Kirstie Allsopp will host on Friday 14 and Saturday 15 September, with TV presenter/upcycler Max McMurdo on Sunday. YOU readers can claim a £3 discount on full price entry only tickets (usually £16). Go to thehandmadefair.com then enter the code YOUMAG18 at the checkout. Subject to availability; booking and transaction fees apply.
One for the heart
For people who need to check their blood pressure at home, the new Braun iCheck 7 is simple to use: wrap the cuff round your wrist, pull tight then press the on/off button. The monitor displays and records your blood pressure and shows you a heart icon that changes colour depending on the reading. Connect it to your iPhone to store the readings and also to access the Braun Healthy Heart app. Braun iCheck 7 Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor BPW4500, £99.99, boots.com.
2 mindful books to pop in your pocket
Pause Every Day… by Danielle Marchant, Octopus, £6.99
Simple ideas to help you break the cycle of whizzing around from morning to night.
Mindful Thoughts for City Dwellers by Lucy Anna Scott, Leaping Hare Press, £5.99
A colleague passed me her well-thumbed copy of this engaging book that helps town-bound readers discover the joys of urban living.
Feature by Sarah Stacey