3rd August 2017

A page from my art journal

Soon after the death of my husband, I had a bit of fortune when I started art journaling. I use the word “fortune” because of what arose from it:

For a start, it gave me an escape from the turmoil in my mind. Instead of being overwhelmed by grief, I was thinking about whether to use a pen or a pencil, what colour to use, what bit to stick where, etc.

It also gave me a way to express myself when I felt unable to say what I wanted to say. I could scream and rant as much as I wanted through art without alarming anyone. So, instead of feeling helpless, art journaling helped me feel empowered.

I also wasn’t hindered by my artistic limitations – I could simply cut bits out of magazines or use things that had already been created for me, like stamps and stencils, to create my art. This again helped me to feel empowered.

Seeing the bits of art I created, and the positive feedback I got for them, also helped me face the future. It was a slightly strange situation to turn something so horrible as the death of my husband into bits of art but, doing so, gave me confidence in my abilities, which fed into other areas of my life.

The positive effects of arts and craft have also been backed up by research:

According to this article by CNN, “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.”

The article goes on to say that it has effects similar to meditation. Apparently, the repetitive motions of craft activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which quiets our”fight or flight” responses. Time can disappear as we become absorbed in what we’re creating.

The article also states that crafting releases dopamine – our natural anti-depressant – and that “In one study of more than 3,500 knitters, published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting. More than half reported feeling “very happy.”” This is particularly intensified when we’re happy with what we’ve created and get a sense of achievement.

As for aging, the article states that our brains can improve through neuroplasticity – becoming more mentally adept – and that crafting is particularly useful in this because of the many areas of our brain it involves. For example, it “can work your memory and attention span while involving your visuospatial processing, creative side and problem-solving abilities” all at once. Furthermore, apparently “crafting could reduce your chances of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30% to 50%, according to a 2011 study published in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry.”

If you want to get a bit of this magic, then you may be interested to learn that WHISC run craft sessions on the third Tuesday of the month, 12:15-1:45pm. The sessions are by donation, so could cost you just buttons (pun intended)!

The next session is on 22nd August. Do get in touch if you want to take part or find out more.