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Is your art or craft the secret to a healthier life?

December 18, 2015

crafting brain

Whether you sew, quilt, crochet, or knit; whether you’ve just started or have been doing it for years, you probably took it up because your friends were doing it or you were looking for a creative outlet. But it turns out, it’s not just fun, it’s downright good for you!

There is mounting evidence that engaging in creative and meaningful activities such as sewing, quilting, knitting, and other artwork can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing. Neuroscientists and other experts have long cited the therapeutic potential of habitual crafting.  These types of activities require a single-minded focus that helps us live in the moment; something that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as flow: “a few moments in time when you are so completely absorbed by an activity that nothing else seems to matter.” Flow, Csikszentmihalyi says, is the secret to happiness. (1)

“When we are involved in (creativity), we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life… time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”  – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Additional studies show that crafting can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression or even chronic pain. Experts believe it may also increase happiness and protect the brain from damage caused by aging. In a study published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of respondents with depression reporting feeling happy after knitting and more than half reported feeling “very happy” (1).

This study from the British Journal of Occupational therapy shows that knitting has significant psychological and social benefits. The study shows a strong relationship between knitting frequency and feeling calm and happy. More frequent knitters also reported higher cognitive functioning and those who knitted in a group were impacted significantly on perceived happiness, improved social contact and communication with others (2).

knitting hands

This study from the OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health journal that tracked 18 quilters, described the benefits of needlecraft (3):

While there is still very limited amounts of research on the subject, neuroscientists are beginning to consider how studies on the benefits of doing crossword puzzles might apply to a quilter who does complex quilting patterns; or how the benefits of meditation might be similar to the “zen” reached while painting or sculpting (3).

More research is being done on leisure activities’ impact on the brain, but one study shows that activities such as computer use, playing games, reading books and craft activities such as quilting and knitting reduced chances of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30% to 50% (4).

So keep on beading, sewing, knitting, crocheting, quilting and enjoy the beauty AND the health benefits of your work or hobby.

Mary Zinn is a regular contributor to the CraftOptics blog.


  1. This is your brain on crafting (CNN)
  2. The Benefits of Knitting for Personal and Social Wellbeing in Adulthood: Findings from an International Survey (British Journal of Occupational Therapy)
  3. Ditch the Prozac, Take Up Crafting? (Yahoo)
  4. Engaging in Cognitive Activities, Aging and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Study (The Journal of Neuropsychiatry)

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    • I totally agree! Beading / jewelry making has significantly decreased my anxiety!