Creativity, Crafting, and Wellbeing
Updated: May 1, 2021
This post is written by James Birchenough, Laura’s husband. He is the Headteacher of a secondary alternative provision, and runs a wellbeing business in his spare time.
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I used to describe myself as a creative person. Growing up I’d often do cartoony drawings of people I knew, and I’d love to sit at the piano and improvise. I’d sometimes write poems or stories, and into adulthood this has developed into writing a blog. But when I met Laura, who truly is a creative genius, I got a bit more perspective on the level of my abilities. (If you don’t know her personally, just take a look at her beautiful hand-dyed yarns, and keep an eye out for the brilliant knitting patterns she’s designed appearing here in the future!) I’m learning, though, that if you’re just drawing, writing, knitting, or crocheting for fun, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re “good” at it; what matters most is the positive effects that these creative pursuits can have on your wellbeing.
Firstly, carving out space for you and your interests helps you remember your identity is more than your role. If you’re in paid or voluntary employment, having something enjoyable to do at home that’s just for you stops you from getting drawn in again to your work when you should be switching off. If a small chunk of free time presents itself, it’s good to have something to fill the void otherwise it’s easy to just keep on working and head closer to burnout, not making time to rest your mind or emotions. If your job is a stay at home parent, this applies equally well: our label of “Mummy” or “Daddy” is a big part of who we are, but it’s not all we are. A creative interest helps us pursue something aside from our parenting responsibilities, helping us not lose touch with who we are as a person and reminding us that there’s so more to us than whatever titles we might hold.
Secondly, creative pursuits are good for your mental health in other ways. As you begin a project, you can set small, manageable goals to work towards each day. This brings you back from the daunting prospect of a huge to-do list at home or work to pick up in the morning which will never fully get done, or the equally daunting prospect of a day without any structure or clear tasks, to something you can actually influence that’s small enough to see quick success. Finishing a project, or even completing a small step towards it, allows you to have a sense of achievement which you may not necessarily have in your day otherwise, and lifts your mood for whatever else you need to tackle that day. You can also share your creations with others and bring joy to their lives, especially if you give them as gifts to your loved ones; this can boost your confidence and potentially save you some money too!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for a knitter, being focused on something physical can ease your anxieties. The repetitive nature of the movement of the needles is therapeutic; it brings some order where in your mind there may be chaos, and the pleasant sensation and sound of the needles draws you out of your mind and back into your body. Racing thoughts can be brought back in check by the regularity of the rhythm, and a downward spiral can be halted by being mindful of the feel of the needles and yarn slipping through your fingers. This physicality is an element that lots of creative hobbies don’t have, and is one reason why crafting in particular can be so beneficial for mental health.
I’m not yet a knitter, but I’ve seen first-hand how much it positively influences mental health. If your knitting needles are sat in a dusty corner of a cupboard, neglected and ignored for years, why not pick them back up and give it a go again? Why not send a message to your friend that knits and see if they want to meet up with you to craft together (could be online rather than in real life if need be)? It could be the best thing you’ve done for your wellbeing in a long time.
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Check out our yarn at www.adventuresinyarncraft.co.uk
More of James’s blog posts for WELL (Wellbeing for Educators and Leaders in Learning) can be found here.