There has been a lot written about craft and mental health, and there are a growing number of people who engage in craft related activities as a form of mindfulness or relaxation. It has become big business, from colouring books for adults to knitting clubs, and there has been huge resurgence in ceramics due in part to programs such as the The Great Pottery Throw Down and the beautiful ceramics aesthetics that look so good with the other millenial wellbeing idea – plants.
This year the BBC, in partnership with UCL, conducted the largest study of its kind, looking at how creative activities impact on the mood and wellbeing of almost 50,000 people. It found that being creative works to improve your mood in three ways – it can distract you from stress, it gives your mind space to reassess and contemplate, and it helps to improve self confidence and self esteem. The feeling of achievement from creating something with your hands is something that anyone who has been proud of a delicious meal can understand, and the study found that anything, even a small amount of making, has a big impact, regardless of skill level. In fact, learning new skills is particularly good for you, with the sense of achievement and emotional benefits that are gained by that. The effects increase with the regularity of engaging with activities, especially ones where people were able to take part with others.
Having been through a period of depression recently, I notice that making work gives me a boost of happiness. Sometimes a project doesn’t work out, and the frustration can be overwhelming, but giving myself a small task such as making brackets for my flat, or one of my life drawing sketches in steel can hugely boost my self esteem. Getting myself into the studio can feel tricky enough, but any achievement makes it worth it. Recently, I spoke to the doctor about what I was getting enjoyment from, and I had to admit that I had lost all interest in food and cooking (normally great joys in my life) but I still occasionally found some in creating something in my workshop. “Just make something” has become a bit of a mantra now that I repeat with my studio buddy Catherine, and it
Even looking at art can improve your mental health, and I have been looking back at the exhibitions that I remember, they are all the ones that filled me with joy and wonder, like Matisse at Tate Modern, and Alexander Calder which I wrote about here. So, this weekend I will be going around Glasgow seeing what is on. I look forward to Part Seen, Part Imagined at House For An Art Lover.