Helen lives in the North of England and has her own blog unlockingwords. She's joining in Mind’s Crafternoon, where people get together with friends, family or colleagues to flex their creative muscles, have fun and fundraise for better mental health.
Today she talks about how therapeutic it can be to flex your creative muscles.
When I saw Mind asking “Has crafting boosted your mental health?” on Twitter, my reaction was “well yes, of course, what a stupid question!” But of course it isn’t a silly question at all.
We live in a society where so many people believe they aren’t creative and because of that would never think to turn towards craft as a hobby or way of coping with life. As far as I can tell, a huge part of this belief comes from art lessons in school which focus heavily on techniques and reproducing things in life-like quality. This isn’t my version of creativity. For me, creativity is about expression.
Crafting has been a part of my life for a long time in various different forms. As a side-note, I have a chronic pain condition which is deteriorating and means I am not able to do all of the craft that I used to be able to.
Knitting has provided a therapeutic repetitive task which has helped to calm me and has given me an almost mindfulness experience. When anxious, it has helped to slow things down for me. When depressed, it’s helped me feel like I am achieving something – I am doing something useful.
I’ve scrapbooked photos, for example it might be from a trip you’ve taken or of a child growing up. As well as the distraction and immersion in the activity, it also helps you to recall good memories.
Read about types of mental health problems
I’ve tried card-making, candle-making, cross-stitch, sewing little decorations out of felt – you name it, I’ve probably had a go. The one thing they all have in common for me is a sense of satisfaction, feeling productive and also acting as a distraction when needed. All of which is really important for maintaining or boosting my mental health.
"Do something small and do it most days."
At the moment, the big one for me is art-journaling. Art-journaling has played a huge role in supporting my mental health. I was standing on a beach a few years ago, feeling the weight of depression grasping at my ankles. Having been there before I felt desperate not to let it happen again. It was then that I thought that keeping a visual diary or journal might be a way of doing something productive and creative most days but without lots of pressure to complete a huge project.
I got myself an A5 notebook, nothing too big or that’d overwhelm me. Most days I would do something in it, whether it was as basic as sticking in a postcard from somewhere I’d been that day or writing in a quote that I’d come across. I didn’t want to put pressure on myself – it could be as basic as it wanted, provided I did something on a regular basis. Soon I’d finished that notebook and I’d realised how important it was to me. Being able to do one small thing helps me feel like I have achieved something. And it keeps my creative muscles flexible. I’ve also found that I go through the day with a deeper attention – part of me is looking for things to include in my journal.
In the last few months, this has changed in response to my worsening chronic pain and I’m using different techniques and equipment but the essence is the same; do something small and do it most days.
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.