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Can Crafts help your Mental Health?
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Can Crafts help your Mental Health?

The creative mind has largely been associated with mental health. Perhaps nothing more exemplifies this connection than the madness and brilliance of Vincent Van Gogh.

Behind the walls of a psychiatric hospital, he created some of his most brilliant works of art. He found solace and recovery in art at a time when little was known of mental health. More recently it has been proven that Cortisol – the stress hormone, can be greatly reduced by creating art.

Creative resource Design Bundles have given further efficacy to the healing power of art. They have shown that painting is the most therapeutic craft with over 136,000 searches each month in the UK.

Painting is the UK’s most popular therapeutic craft

A staggering one in four people will suffer from mental health problems each year in the UK. Perhaps this is why hundreds of thousands of searches are made each month for therapeutic crafts.

Painting is by far the most therapeutic craft with 136,000 searches per month. Something about the creative expression of painting seemingly has a calming effect on the mind.

The calming effect of creating images is a trend shown by the study’s second most therapeutic craft. Drawing has around 98,000 searches each month. Next would be the capture of images in real life, as photography is the third most searched therapeutic craft.

This information was gathered using 30 different types of recommended therapeutic crafts. Each craft was measured by popularity using Google search averages. The top 10 information is shown below.

Top 10 Most Popular Therapeutic Crafts

Therapeutic craft: Average monthly searches per month (UK):
Painting 136,000
Drawing 98,000
Photography 66,000
Crochet 54,000
Calligraphy 46,000
Tie Dye 44,000
Macrame 36,000
Origami 34,000
Colouring 30,000
Knitting 24,000

How does art help improve mental wellbeing?

Art has been shown to have almost immediate health benefits. In less than one hour making art can greatly relieve stress. You don’t have to be a great artist to explore art therapy. It is the creative process itself that helps improve mood and lower stress levels. From ‘The Starry Night’ to smiley faces, art has many benefits that can greatly reduce anxiety.

How does art help trauma?

“Art can be a refuge from the intense emotions associated with illness” Heather L Stuckey & Jeremy Nobel.

Trauma and trauma-based disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can greatly affect the brain. Specifically, trauma can affect speech centres meaning talk-based therapies are severely hampered. Visual arts can act as a safe space to express past trauma and subconsciously deal with negative feelings.

PTSD can make people feel unsafe within themselves harbouring deep routed memories from terrifying experiences. Traumatic memories are often experienced in both the mind and body in a state-specific form. This means the visual, physiological, sensory, and emotional feelings felt during the event.

Words are only part of this, and talking can often trigger powerful emotions, causing a great deal of anxiety. The aim is to work through these undigested memories and desensitise them to triggering feelings.

The creative process such as painting gently exposes sufferers to their fears allowing them to express them on a canvas. Spilling past trauma into arts and out of their body and mind.

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What is art therapy?

Art therapy aims to treat mental health issues using artistic methods. This mental health treatment that began in the 1940s uses art as a healing strategy to treat psychological disorders.

In particular art therapy was used post world war two to treat soldiers suffering from PTSD. Art therapy is not just a fun art class but a professional psychotherapy treatment.

Guided by an art therapist, patients will try to express emotions both negative, and positive to create a greater sense of strength and wellbeing. Often it is easier to express unsayable, shameful, or taboo subjects by creating art.

Issues that can be improved using art therapy include:

  • Aging-related issues
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Emotional difficulties
  • Family or relationship problems
  • Medical conditions
  • Psychological symptoms associated with other medical issues
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Psychosocial issues
  • Stress
  • Substance use disorder

How does art treat depression?

Crafting art has many mental health benefits including the treatment of anxiety and depression. The relaxing creative process of art is excellent for stress relief.

Anxiety and depression are often closely interlinked and art therapy can alleviate anxious feelings, allowing patients to have more positive thoughts. Mental well being is also greatly improved by art therapy as it can boost dopamine levels in the brain.

Dopamine is known as the feel-good hormone. However, it is also needed for motivation. Spending time making art can greatly improve mood, drive, and quality of life.

Limitations of art therapy

A controversial scientific trial by MATISSE (Multicenter evaluation of Art Therapy in Schizophrenia: Systematic Evaluation) found that art therapy is of little use in treating Schizophrenia.  The conclusion stated that art therapy “does not lead to improved patient outcomes when offered to most people with schizophrenia.

However, this is in contrast to NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) which recommends art therapies to anyone diagnosed with schizophrenia. However, this is again called into question by The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry. They state that evidence of effective treatment is inconclusive and suggest further research is needed before they can recommend art therapy.

Can crafts help your mental health?

The simple answer is yes, many people find relief when making crafts whether in a professional setting or by self care. Painting is shown to be especially popular as a therapeutic tool. Painting, drawing, and other visual arts are particularly useful in the treatment of trauma.

Other benefits include the treatment of anxiety and depression. However, crafting has many more mental health benefits such as; improving self-esteem, cognitive abilities, problem-solving skills, focus, motivation, mood, and many more.

However, it is important to note that although drawing and other creative processes have many benefits, it is not always applicable. Some have into question whether or not mental health services benefit by treating schizophrenics with art therapy.

But, overall participating in a creative project can greatly improve mental health.

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