It’s 3pm – you have multiple deadlines, a growing queue of urgent emails and you still haven’t had lunch. Sound familiar? It does to us. So today, when the pressure began to mount, instead of ploughing on regardless, I tried something different. I’d been reading about the benefits of mindful crafting and decided to test out the theory. I closed the laptop and began to weave a few rounds on a willow basket I’ve been making. And it worked. Instantly. After just two rows of winding the soft, green willow through my fingers, my heart rate returned to normal and my mountain of work felt much more manageable. When you spend all day hunched over a computer, it’s understandable that from time to time, your mind and body need a different way to express themselves.
And it’s this, combined with an ever-increasing dependence on technology of all types, that may just account for the recent surge in popularity for all things crafting. Making something unique and beautiful is, of course, very satisfying and can allow for a period of mindful attention in an otherwise hectic life. But the benefits of crafting reach far deeper, believe Rosemary Davidson and Arzu Tahsin, authors of new book Craftfulness (Quercus, £12.99 ). ‘Creativity is an intrinsic part of our human-ness. Our ability to imagine and think, and to relate thought in symbolic form – language, art forms, writing – distinguishes us from every other species.’
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Working on a creative project can enhance your emotional and mental wellbeing in unexpected ways. Meaningful, goaldriven physical activity encourages neural connections that are important for combating depression. And when you use your hands and mind together, you benefit from a more complete brain experience than in purely intellectually driven reward.
Mindful crafting can also benefit your working life. In the US, the 64 Million Artists Initiative gave workers half a day a month to reconnect with their creative side and participating companies said the results were impressive, with employees engaged, inspired, more motivated at work and enjoying improved relationships with their colleagues.
NEW LIFE SKILLS
Perhaps the most unexpected benefit of crafting is that it can help you find more fulfilment in your life in general, believe Davidson and Tashin. ‘We can be creative in our lives in much the same way that we are with our making projects. We can take risks, work hard and consider the opportunities that come our way more thoughtfully. Our lives can become the canvas against which the decisions we make paint a picture of a life fully explored,’ they say. And beginning a new crafting project or learning a crafting skill, where you need to exercise your imagination, make creative decisions and solve problems provides a contained microcosm for developing and honing these skills.
GO WITH THE FLOW
If you want to give crafting a try, bringing an attitude of mindfulness will greatly enhance your experience. Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow’, where you’re totally absorbed in your activity, is central to craftfulness. To achieve flow, he came up with five prerequisites – having a goal and clear set of rules; concentrating on the task at hand; merging your awareness with your action; choosing a challenging project that requires skill and gives you immediate feedback; and adjusting your work as needed to maintain the state of flow. You just need to decide what your first project will be…