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What would you say if I told you there was something you would truly enjoy that would make you feel happier, more fulfilled, and youthful? (I mean, besides chocolate.)
As it turns out, there actually is such a secret ingredient for a more joyous life.
It’s called crafting.
In addition to providing you with a supply of adorable, one-of-a-kind handmade gifts for people you care about, crafting can increase your happiness, lower your stress levels, and keep your mind sharp.
Don’t take my word for it; ask science.
WHAT SCIENCE SAYS
Multiple scientific studies have proven the positive impacts of crafting for adults.
A study of 3,500 knitters published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy found that knitting had similar benefits to meditation and helped people feel calmer, happier, and cope with stress.
Another study in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, involving more than 1,300 participants between the ages of 70 and 89, found that people who regularly engage in crafts like quilting and knitting have a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment. The benefits of crafting were similar to reading.
While it is kind of nice to know that science backs me up, I didn’t need a medical journal to tell what I’ve always known. What it comes down to is this:
Crafting and creativity are good for the soul.
A Way to Express Myself
Human beings are inherently creative. The need and desire to express ourselves creatively exists inside every person, practically from the moment of birth. Put any group of three or four year olds in a room with paper and crayons and they will immediately start making art. Why? Because humans are hard-wired for creativity.
Crafting affords me a pleasurable way to tap into my creative side. Whether I am stitching a quilt, decorating a cake, knitting a scarf, or painting a landscape, crafting gives me an opportunity to express myself creatively by putting my unique personal stamp on whatever I’m making. In doing so, I am scratching a God-given itch that’s been with me (and you!) from day one.
A Way to Calm My Heart
Many people, especially those who engage in crafts that involve repetitive motions, such as knitting or quilting, talk about the calming, almost meditative nature of crafting. I’ve certainly found that to be true in my own life. When something is bothering me, spending time with my fabric or yarn distracts me from my troubles, sometimes in ways that are very profound.
Twenty years ago, my middle son, then just 13, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. My family and I were living in Mexico at the time but we had a summer home near Seattle so my son and I went there for his treatment, leaving my husband back in Mexico to care for the other children.
The surgery and treatment my son would undergo was complicated. Preparing for it required many weeks and many trips to the hospital. Between those visits, we had too much empty time on our hands, too much time to worry about what might happen. As a young teen, my son understood the danger he was facing.
Realizing that we were both in need of a distraction, I took my boy to a quilt shop and helped him choose fabrics for a quilt of his own, a pine tree pattern with lots of restful green. We cut out the blocks together and I sewed them. It was, as I hoped, a good distraction and gave the two of us positive place to channel our anxieties.
I can still recall my tears of joy when, on the day of the surgery, the doctor called from the operating room to tell me the tumor was benign and my son would live. I also remember how the making that pine tree quilt helped make things a bit easier for me, and my son, during one of the most difficult patches of our lives.
Something to Strive For
Crafting and other creative pursuits give me an opportunity to learn new things that challenge me to take risks, solve problems, and master new skills.
Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of an especially difficult project, I wonder what in the world made me think I could do it. On occasion, even my beloved quilting as made me cry and tempted me to say bad words. But if I push through and push on, the pay off is so, so worth it!
The satisfaction and sense of accomplishment I feel after completing a challenging craft project adds so much that is good to my life.
In the grand scheme of life, figuring out how to sew perfect points on a quilt might not seem like that big a deal. But meeting those small challenges successfully gives me courage and confidence to set larger goals and take bigger risks in many other areas of my life.
Let’s face it; if you can make the points meet perfectly on an eight-pointed star quilt block, you can do anything!
Something to Share
One of the things I enjoy about crafts and creative pursuits is the opportunity to spend time alone, doing something I enjoy. It’s such a great way to clear my head. But I also appreciate the communal aspect of crafting.
I’ve taken all kinds of craft classes and workshops over the years and made so many wonderful friends in the process. But even when I’m among strangers, my love of crafts gives me a way to connect. Talking about favorite hobbies is a great icebreaker. And if you’re lucky enough to meet up with a stranger who shares your interest in quilting, crocheting, photography, or whatever – I guarantee you won’t be strangers for long.
But my favorite thing about crafting is the way it lets people I care about know that I care. Store bought gifts are all well and good. But when I give someone a hand-crafted item made just for them, I’m giving them a place in my heart and piece of myself.
No gift card in the world, no matter how hefty the denomination, carries quite the same value.
HOW TO START CRAFTING
Crafting and creativity adds so much to life! It breaks my heart when I meet someone who says, “Oh, I could never________ ( quilt, draw, knit, embroider, etc.). I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”
At the risk of sounding rude – that is baloney. Everybody has a creative bone in their body! A whole bunch of them!
But rather than bones, think of creativity as a muscle. You’ve got to use it or lose it But here’s the good news. Even it’s been years since you’ve flexed your creative muscles, they haven’t completely atrophied. It’s not too late to get your creative, crafty, fierce and fabulous self back into shape.
Just. Do. It.
Whether you’re taking up crafting for the first time of putting a fine edge of your already well-honed skills, a great teacher can make all the difference. If possible, I really recommend enrolling in a local crafting class or workshop. Not only will you learn a lot, you’ll probably make some new friends.
That being said, not everybody has the ability to commit to taking face-to-face craft classes, especially if they run for several weeks. For people who travel, like me, or have unpredictable schedules, it’s nearly impossible and very frustrating.
But there IS a solution.
CRAFT IN YOUR JAMMIES, AT TWO O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING, FOR FREE
I’m a huge fan of Craftsy, a website offering amazing craft courses from world class teachers.
Sure, there are a ton of online crafting tutorials out there. But there is a big difference between watching a quickie tutorial filmed in somebody’s basement and having access to hours of in-depth, well-filmed instruction from a nationally known teacher.
The production quality of Craftsy is outstanding. The camera gets in close and at the right angle so you can see exactly how things are done! And I love that it works with my schedule. If I’ve got an unexpected hour on a Wednesday morning, I can spend it learning to crochet. If I can’t sleep at 2 in the morning on Thursday, I can login and pick up where I left off.
A few months ago, I signed up for Craftsy Unlimited. My subscription gives me access to every class in the Craftsy collection, everything from quilting and weaving to baking and woodworking. I think it’s fantastic!
That’s why I wanted to tell you that Craftsy is running a seven-day trial of Craftsy Unlimited for FREE! (I don’t know about you, but free is my favorite price.)
Check it out! You seriously have nothing to lose and so much to gain (like knowledge, joy, and the excitement that comes from learning something new!)
JUST GET CRAFTING
However you choose to express your crafty-creative self – in the privacy of your craft cave, by joining a crafting group or guild, or by taking classes in person or online – just do it.
Because crafting really is the secret ingredient to joy, fulfillment, and eternal youth.
If you don’t believe me, hopefully you will believe the really smart scientists who back up my claim.
So do this for yourself. Pick up a pair of fancy crafting scissors, retreat to your craft room, turn on your favorite crafting music (I prefer Broadway hits), and try something new.
We may be over fifty but we still have so much to learn, to enjoy, and to create.
And you might surprise yourself. You might just find your new favorite way to spend your time.
As parting advice, let this quote from the fierce and fabulous Sophia Loren really soak in. She knows her stuff.
“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” – Sophia Loren