The unknown benefits of crafting and how to get into your flow-zone
Posted on Dec 24, 2015 in Health and Wellbeing
There’s a lot of talk these days about health and wellness. With extreme juice cleanses and caveman diets, specific gym workouts and cardio fitness programs it seems everyone is focused on how to live a healthier life. However, perhaps what keeps us well isn’t a new fad diet or a workout routine. The fact is we can use our hands and creativity through crafting to find wellness for our mind, body and soul.
Studies have established the many health benefits of crafting. From the direct cognitive gains, like keeping your mind sharp, to the secondary physical benefits including preventing depression and anxiety, arts and crafts can enrich your life and the lives of others. CNN reported on numerous studies that confirm the huge benefit to mental health through crafting.
“Crafting can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression or chronic pain”, experts say. “It may also ease stress, increase happiness and protect the brain from damage caused by aging”. Crafting has also been shown to help ease dementia and aid in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), CNN reports. **
With the volume of research on the subject of crafting and brain health, and the exploration I have undertaken in the field of art therapy, together with my offering of similar approaches to the mind/body/soul connection through my traditional wooden longbow workshops and my transpersonal life coaching service, I can assure you that through engaging in crafting and making your own items, you will be well on your way to a balanced life. There have been many studies which link working with your hands in a creative way with feeling more positive. ^
We humans are typically more motivated to engage in an activity that has some meaning to us, provides enjoyment, or is perceived as serving a purpose.
I believe that people are currently drawn to activities like making a traditional wooden longbow as this allows one to feel grounded and connected to a place. It connects them to their environment, despite all of the uncertainty that presently surrounds us. The finished longbow can be used for archery and or placed on display as a testament to the creator’s diligence and skill. Understanding the start-to-finish process of any craft-based activity mirrors life cycles and the rhythms of nature. For urban dwellers specifically, this is a great way to stave off the depression that comes from prolonged anxiety and a lack of centeredness. Keeping one’s hands moving also mimics traditional activities like plowing, raking, weeding, or milking. We can lose ourselves in the patterns and textures created, and this can be extremely therapeutic and restorative. It creates a one-to-one relationship that makes everything else simply fade away. It’s a healthy state of being that replaces all kinds of dis-ease of the mind and body.
^ So does the physical act of using your hands to make something, like a wooden longbow, increase some sort of chemical reaction that basks your brain in feel good, all-natural cocktails that can enhance your sense of well being? I have witnessed a person’s vibe and attitude change over night during a workshop. Not once, nor twice, but hundreds of times! This is proof enough for me that the act of making a longbow – crafting and a person’s sense of wellbeing are directly linked. Everyone is different and is finding their own meaning in the journey, but the enjoyment is always amazingly obvious and shines through on the faces of the participants.
I reach for a raw piece of wood and use the longbow making process when I am faced with a difficult decision to make or when I need to brainstorm and discover solutions. The repetitive movement of the file shaping the wood allows my brain to relax into a different state. I call it the “flow zone”. That is where great ideas come from.
I really believe that using our hands to do meaningful projects can benefit our overall health and wellbeing and enable us to tap into our deeper knowledge.
It doesn’t matter if you make a longbow, your own boots, ferment food, knit a jumper or scarf or work in your garden, when you prepare a meal or do any other hands on work in your house, you are bathing your brain in feel-good chemicals and creating a kind of mental vitamin. Our grandparents and great grandparents, who had to work hard for basic resources, developed more resilience against depression; even those who suffered great hardships had much lower rates of this mood disorder. But with today’s overly mechanized lifestyle we have forgotten that our brains crave the wellbeing, the “feeling good” that comes from meaningful effort. *
Now I hear you say; “Yes, but I’m not really a crafting kinda person”. And my answer to you is that everyone can craft – it’s a personal and individual in built ability we humans have. So congratulations! You ARE a crafter. Need some more reasons why crafting is for you?
1) The satisfaction in using that item you have created (whether that may be shooting a bow that you have made yourself, or wearing the scarf you knitted, or writing on the paper you made) is invaluable.
2) The experience and knowledge gained in the process is priceless and can be applied over and over again in many areas of life apart from the functional use of the object. You will imbue the wood/scarf/paper with your energy and intent and this will give it a life and character that cannot be purchased in a store. It is yours and yours alone.
3) In the case of making a wooden longbow, the physical workout you get from practicing archery can be a beneficial side effect. Shooting a bow was part of the daily practice in ancient cultures. It was a daily routine, needed for staying strong and to ensure the survival of the individual and the community as a whole. Introducing this practice into your daily/weekly routine will provide you with strength and focus and it will get you into your “flow zone” so that you may thrive in all areas of your life.
Apart from the gains in ones sense of wellbeing, making cool stuff is a great way to express your creativity — and some people even make a living from it. What does it mean to make a living and how do you want to live? That is another conversation. For now, lets encourage and support the act of creation through crafting. Our future well -being depends on it! ^
Be well. Be wild.
* neuroscientist Kelly Lambert, author of Lifting Depression
^ Thank you James Looker Photography.