The Mail on Sunday - You - - Editor’s Letter -

Time was when we would all have been mak­ing some­thing: knit­ting, sewing, paint­ing, quilt­ing, wood­work, press­ing wild flow­ers, writ­ing a jour­nal, mak­ing pots or bas­kets, mend­ing ev­ery­thing from clothes to lawn­mow­ers. Then tech­nol­ogy be­gan to dom­i­nate our lives, such oc­cu­pa­tions of­ten fell by the way­side and – per­haps in part a con­trib­u­tory fac­tor – anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion es­ca­lated.

Craft­ing is both an en­joy­able an­ti­dote to the speed and tran­si­tory na­ture of mod­ern life and a way of so­cial­is­ing with­out pres­sure – knit and nat­ter groups, for in­stance. With one in four peo­ple suf­fer­ing men­tal health prob­lems, it is also in­creas­ingly recog­nised as hav­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact on our minds. ‘Mak­ing and mend­ing things can help us make and mend our­selves,’ say Rose­mary David­son and Arzu Tahsin, the au­thors of Craft­ful­ness (to be pub­lished by Quer­cus in Oc­to­ber).

‘Mak­ing things with our hands ac­ti­vates dif­fer­ent brain cir­cuits to, say, office work,’ ac­cord­ing to a re­port on the health ben­e­fits of knit­ting (knit­for­peace.org.uk). The repet­i­tive move­ment of knit­ting, like­wise ta­pes­try, quilt­ing and sim­i­lar crafts, pro­motes the re­lease of the calm­ing neu­ro­trans­mit­ter sero­tonin, which also lifts mood and dulls pain.

Fas­ci­nat­ingly, all two-handed move­ments across the mid-line of our bod­ies (eg, play­ing the pi­ano) are recog­nised as us­ing a lot of brain ca­pac­ity, leav­ing less room for neg­a­tive think­ing. Knit­ting and other forms of craft­ing can also be a form of mind­ful­ness, pro­duc­ing the same al­pha-wave pat­tern in the brain and help­ing the per­son to deal with feel­ings of stress, anx­i­ety or de­pres­sion.

Men­tal health char­ity Mind (mind.org.uk) is right be­hind this trend. ‘We know that many peo­ple find craft ac­tiv­i­ties to be great for their men­tal health, be­cause they can help you switch off from day-to-day pres­sures and turn neg­a­tive thoughts or feel­ings into some­thing pos­i­tive,’ says Karen Bolton, head of com­mu­nity and events fundrais­ing at Mind. The char­ity is so con­vinced of the ben­e­fits that it has launched a Crafter­noon cam­paign to en­cour­age peo­ple to get to­gether with friends, fam­ily or col­leagues and make simple things – from happy jars to pa­per lanterns or, my favourite, a lit­tle laven­der-filled teddy bear – and raise funds for Mind. Get a Crafter­noon pack by reg­is­ter­ing on­line at mind.org.uk.

The Hand­made Fair (see left) is also sup­port­ing Mind by sell­ing Craft­ing Kits for busi­ness own­ers. These are intended to sup­port em­ploy­ees’ well­be­ing by en­cour­ag­ing them to take time out to get cre­ative. All pro­ceeds will go to Mind. Kirstie All­sopp, who presents the fair, says: ‘We want peo­ple to put down their mo­bile phones, pick up their craft ma­te­ri­als and for­get their stresses.’

Each Craft­ing Kit costs £20 and con­tains an in­spir­ing range of ma­te­ri­als and tools for ten to 20 peo­ple. To or­der, email hand­made­fairteam@bran­de­vents. co.uk, with ‘Hand­made Fair Craft­ing Kit’ in the sub­ject box.

Sarah Stacey

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