I will admit to being pretty stressed out right now.
Working two jobs with two children under the age of 11, all while trying to re-enroll in college for a new degree… it isn’t easy. Plus, I am in the middle of a move, and an amicable (but still straining) end to a marriage that has spanned more than a decade. Times are tough.
So the topic of using DIY crafting and art in general to be happy is a deeply personal one for me. If it weren’t for being able to find little snatches of time to dedicate to my projects, I would probably go crazy.
I’m not the only one. Art has long since been used as a coping mechanism to manage difficult feelings and trauma. Art therapy is a common staple in many hospitals and outpatient programs for those struggling with mental illness. Nursing homes incorporate simple crafts for residents. Group activities like knitting circles are cultural touchstones.
But in what ways is it really practical? Can DIY projects and crafting actually make you a happier person?
It Can Help You Relax
Relaxation is a pretty obvious reason to try crafting and DIY projects. It goes beyond finding a way to occupy your thoughts, though. It actually suppresses them. Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University, compares it to meditation.
He spoke about ‘flow’, the act of engaging in a creative activity as a form of meditation, in a TedTalk he gave back in 2004.
“When we are involved in creativity, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”
It Gives You Tangible Results At The End
You may be thinking that any activity can technically do this. Why not go for a walk? A hike? Stand in front of a department store window staring creepily at the mannequins? As long as you aren’t thinking, wouldn’t it have the same result?
Technically, yes. You could just meditate, for that matter. But one way that crafting and DIY projects differ is that they produce a tangible result at the end. There is something you can point to and say, “I did that; I made that.” There is a feeling of accomplishment involved.
While some people may be happy with meditation itself, some of us feel less peaceful without something to show for the effort. A project keeps us from feeling as though we’ve merely lost time.
It Provides An Outlet For Emotional Strife
You may have heard of mandalas. They are a form of art that started with a simple shape, and slowly uses other shapes to build and expand on the image until you have something beautiful and complex. It is a mindless exercise, but one that is becoming so popular that coloring books dedicated to it now exist.
Psychology Today had a fascinating piece about how they are used for managing emotion. You can help deal with your own strife using art of any kind, which includes crafting and do-it-yourself projects. It comes from the same idea, and is very effective.
It Keeps Your Mental Faculties Sharp
Over time, our brains can become stagnant. If you have ever gone over your kids homework and felt overwhelmed, you know what I mean. Adults become bogged down with everyday concerns and actions pertaining to jobs, traffic, schedules, running a household, buying groceries, budgeting, etc.
Unfortunately, if we don’t exercise our brain, it acts like any other muscle. It becomes weak and slow. We have to keep it engaged, and crafting is a fantastic way to do that. A sharp mind has many benefits, including managing stress and just feeling more competent.
It Opens You Up To a Community
Crafting, DIY projects and art communities are huge. Seriously, do a Google search for some kind of related keyword and your city. You will find an endless supply of options somewhere near you. If you live somewhere more isolated, you will find online groups with members by the tens of thousands, all sharing their projects and encouraging one another.
Loneliness is one of the leading causes of sadness in human beings. It can have serious health results, as well; we are social creatures who are meant to be socially engaged. The Internet has actually isolated many of us further. You can turn that around with crafting.
It Helps You Sleep Better
Remember what I was saying about meditation? Quieting the mind has a direct influence of our ability to sleep. I personally have a big problem with insomnia, not one that is chemical, but purely mental. I get these raging anxieties and I can’t get my mind to calm down.
That is why I sit down every night for an hour before bed and I turn on some music. I sit in my living room and I draw. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be relaxing. Before the hour is up my eyes are drooping, and I fall right to sleep.
A lot of people experience this same phenomenon. Whether it is quilting, building a bench, or painting, creativity can be very soothing.
It Personalizes Your Space
Maybe this is just me, but there is something depressing about the hum drum look of mass produced decor. Walking through a Walmart or Ikea just doesn’t get me in a positive mood. Why would I want my home to look that generic?
Crafting, DIY projects and art all allow you a way to personalize your space. You are creating interesting pieces no one else possesses.
Get Happy! Get Creative!
Experts and people alike have expounded on the benefits of creativity. Crafting, DIY projects and art in general can make your life fuller and more enriched. They can help you manage depression and anxiety, or just feel more accomplished. So why not give it a try?