Can Arts and Crafts make us happy?

Posted: 15th May 2019

Can Arts and Crafts make us happy?

by Kate Dewmartin, CraftCourses.com Founder

In learning creative skills, making beautiful and useful things, we relax, we enjoy the sensations of colour and texture – and we get enormous satisfaction in being able to say, ‘I made that’. The purpose of CraftCourses.com is to help as many people as possible access that fantastic feeling. Having grown up in a family craft business I also wanted to help craftspeople and artists pass on their precious skills for generations to come and make a living – teaching their skills is a really great way to do this.

So naturally I was delighted to partner with the Get Creative Festival, which took place 11 – 19 May. The festival aims to kick start people’s creative habits by offering a range of free or low cost, not for profit workshops in a range of crafts across the week and we were happy to help promote the event as well as encourage continuous creative activity post-event.

The festival is part of BBC Arts – Get Creative campaign who commissioned the recent research that showed creative pastimes helped to improve health and wellbeing. We are firm believers in this and as part of the collaboration I wrote the following article for the Voluntary Arts blog:

Most of us who have practiced arts and crafts will know that making and doing things can be an enormous boost to our happiness and wellbeing, it certainly is for me. We have now collected over twenty thousand reviews from people with 98% marking the experience as ‘excellent’ with many going on to take further courses or continue the hobby at home!

Helping people get creative (in whatever form that may take) protects and nourishes us, alleviating feelings of anxiety or stress. Most of us can identify with the sense of peace that comes from being absorbed in a creative task. Making is well documented as a form of therapy, a helpful tool to restore or maintain mental wellbeing.

In doing and making and repairing – and ‘making do’ – there is a tremendous pleasure.” Kevin McCloud, Escape to the Wild, Channel 4, 2015.

Ground breaking new research from BBC Arts* has shown that taking part in even a small amount of creative activity can improve your wellbeing, with scientists able to pin point how the brain regulates our emotions during these periods.

We have been very encouraged to see the Government recognising the positive role of the Arts in mental health, both to patients and the NHS, with several studies highlighting how much money can be saved if arts and crafts became available on prescription. ** This is something we would be keen to support in any way we can.

Added to this, in 2016, researchers from Drexel University in Pennsylvania *** discovered a 75% decrease in levels of the stress hormone Cortisol after participants had spent 45 minutes crafting… makes sense to us!

There are many avenues to being creative, it is not just the classic perception of painting and drawing (though of course those are great too), there really is a pastime for everyone.

The ‘Father of Ethics,’ Aristotle, defined virtue as ‘having excellent and well-chosen habits’ that we should practice every day. On this basis, the potter who strives for excellence and beauty in her creations, is adding intrinsic virtue to her life by simply practicing craftsmanship. It is a bonus if the end result is beautiful too.

I truly believe creating is good for our health and happiness. Making things feels good, looks good, and according to both ancient and contemporary minds, the very practice of it is good, even virtuous. So how and where do we start? A place where you can find experts to guide you close to home comes in very handy…

There are thousands of creative courses and workshops all across the UK with new  learning experiences added every day. Have a look and see if there is something to inspire you. I hope so!