Research Reveals How Arts and Crafts Save People from Stress

The rise of the digital environment has revolutionised the way we live our lives. In the modern world, toddlers watch YouTube videos on iPads, children have smartphones with social media and parents catch their favourite shows on streaming platforms like Netflix. If we want to set an alarm for the morning, the days of searching for a clock are long gone. Now, we simply shout “hey, Alexa!”

Unfortunately though, there’s a worry this technology is having a negative impact on our physical and mental health. Recent research undertaken by The Lancet suggests there’s a link between technology use and the issues of child development, obesity and mental health, with the study concluding that the amount of time a child or young person spends on devices should be managed based on the individual. This is backed by findings first discovered by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who found no consistent evidence for any specific health or wellbeing benefits associated with screen time.

To understand how people felt about how this technology is impacting their lives, we conducted our own study, and the results were surprising. In a survey of 500 Brits, we found that 71% of females aged 18-24 currently feel distracted by technology at home, with almost half our responders (43%) telling us that, if they had more time, they’d love to spend some of it enjoying hobbies, arts and crafts. Tellingly, under 10% of our responders told us that they’d like to spend more time on the internet or social media. So, why are people turning away from technology and looking to spend more time on analogue activities? Let’s take a look.

Survey highlights:

  • 71% of young British females feel regularly distracted by technology at home.
  • 31% of young females would choose arts and crafts activities over technology if they had more time at home. 
  • Arts and crafts (37%) and household chores (31%) are the most preferred activities if people had more time at home.
  • 48% of British men would choose to spend their time doing arts and crafts if they had more time at home.

The Benefits of Analogue Activities

To counteract the negative influences of technology, analogue activities like candle making are ideal, as they teach us a number of key skills, including how to be patient and how to de-stress. In addition, candle making allows us to relax, as the process of making something links to meditation.

Plus, because the physical process of candle making encourages relaxation, it can help us lead a healthier lifestyle and improve our cognitive health. This is because, when crafting, the focus is on the process as much as it is on the product.

Often, crafting also forces us to wait. In a world where we are constantly multi-tasking, this can be a form of mindfulness, as it teaches us that it’s possible to slow down.

Whether we’re candle making, knitting or card marking, spending time away from technology gives our minds the opportunity to learn something creative, challenging and new. By being creative, changing approaches and attempting different styles, we can also exercise our natural curiosity, which is the foundation of innovation. The variety of crafts to choose from depends on where your interests lay and how creative you want to be.

Whether you are attending a nearby crafts workshop or perhaps a craft fair, networking with local creative artists is a good starting point to discovering which creative art form interests you. Another starting point could be to look at creative craft courses online.

Finally, the art of crafting also highlights the imperfections in creating something, as being creative also inevitably involves mistakes and things not turning out quite as planned. Recognising that nothing is perfect can help us to learn to be more compassionate towards ourselves. In making an imperfect candle we can remind ourselves that our lives are not perfect either, but this isn’t a problem at all.

The Expert View

Clinical Therapist Pauline Beaumont of Newcastle University agrees with our view. She believes that the demands of the digital world and our constant multi-tasking habits cause avoidable distractions. She told us that because of increasing technology use

“We have become so used to multi-tasking that it can be difficult at first to narrow our attention down to one thing. Focusing on the activity of making something by hand gives us the perfect opportunity to train our attention and thereby to practise mindfulness techniques.”

As a result, Ms Beaumont believes people should spend more time engaging in the physical process of making something, as this will help to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels within the body. She told us that

“It is the physicality of the process of making something by hand which sets [crafting] apart from much of the virtual or digital world we spend so much time in now. Working with physical materials forces us to respect their intrinsic characteristics, such as wax’s response to heat, and this can teach us acceptance. Crafting often involves waiting and this can be a meditation, a way of teaching ourselves that it is possible to slow down.” 

Arts and crafts are a great way to break the bad habit of spending too much time online. Just as a musician needs to learn their first notes before performing a symphony, a crafter also needs to understand their medium and the techniques involved before they start experimenting. But, once you’ve reached this stage, you can try out different ways of making, fuelling your creativity and improving your satisfaction of both the process and the finished product.

Mindfulness meditation-based sessions are also becoming increasingly popular as an effective way for people to attempt to disconnect from their ‘overthinking’ state of mind and self-teach mindfulness. Leeds Mindfulness & Positive Emotion Enhancement Centre’s Steve Hart believes:

“Mindfulness and the arts are becoming quite an exciting phase in the development of taught mindfulness. A brilliant introduction is Laury Rappafort’s “Mindfulness & the Arts Therapies”. We recently had some amazing mindfulness arts activities at Inkwell, Leeds which users were pretty excited about in terms of being present, creating wellbeing, positive concentration with the art-making process. You don’t have to be good at art to simply approach say creating a mandala – the arts embodiment of creating wholeness – a multi-layered geometrical circle integrating all the different dimensions of your being. So please support these arts mindfulness creativity events and join in with the whole of your being – you may learn something very exciting.”

With the health benefits associated with putting the phone or tablet down and starting a new analogue hobby, perhaps it’s time you considered candle making?

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