Ways Arts and Crafts Can Improve Our Mental Health & Quality of Life

A woman taking photos of origami cranes hanging from the ceiling. On the wall are colourful depictions of a life model painted as a zebra.

Like all creative pursuits, arts and crafts have the ability to improve the quality of our lives through the process of creation. But don’t just take it from us – in recent years there has been an explosion of research undertaken into the benefits of being creative for our bodies and minds. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we have complied some of the few ways we benefit from arts and crafts below to highlight the importance of giving ourselves the space and time to get creative this May.

Art makes the brain happy, which makes you happy

Research undertaken by Girija Kaimal and her team for a 2017 paper, published in the journal ‘The Arts of Psychotherapy’, found that “engaging in any sort of visual expression results in the reward pathway in the brain being activated, which means that you feel good, and it’s perceived as a pleasurable experience. The study measured the blood flow to the brain’s reward centre in participants as they completed three art activities, and found an increase of blood flow in these parts. Further research by Ercole Vellone and his team found that art may have long term effects on the brain that help a person recover when things go wrong, such as health problems or stress-inducing issues. Either way, creating helps us be happier and healthier people, which improves our quality of life.

Creating helps us to imagine better futures

Continuing her research into art as a form of therapy, Kaimal wrote about the benefits of creating that help us to imagine a better future, within ‘The Journal of the American Art Therapy Association’ this October. Her theory builds upon the research into our brains being ‘predictive machines’, meaning that they use the information we gain in our day-to-day lives to predict what we might do next to allow us to survive and thrive.  When you create art, you are making many decisions on what you are making, how you are doing it, what materials are needed, etc. This decision making, linked with the activation of the reward centre in the brain, allows for us to envision better futures for ourselves as we are doing something engaging but also beneficial.

Making art as a form of healing and therapy

It’s been well established for decades now that creating art can be utilised to sooth and release stress, with art therapy emerging as a profession in the 1970’s and recognised as a form of treatment within the fields of health and medicine. The benefits of arts and crafts include personal growth, self-expression, improving wellness, and fostering self-esteem. It’s not about being the best artist out there or having natural born talent, its about making time for yourself to enjoy creating and truly being in the moment.

At the centre we have a wide-range of events to take part in from creative courses to performances and visual arts, that can all be explored on our What’s On. One of our upcoming workshops with artist Mel Rye, focuses on the combination of mindful drawing and intuitive collage to promote a sense of calm and connection in the present moment through pressure-free creative play. You can learn more about the workshop by clicking here.

If you are struggling with mental health, please seek out help from family and friends or reach out for support from external services provided.

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