Crafts make life better. We tend to associate craft time with the bygone era of our elementary school days, filled with watercolor palettes with all the colors muddled together, sticky purple glue sticks and the smell of Crayola crayons.
But then we grew up — unless you were artistically gifted — and set aside the safety scissors and colored paper, deeming them childish and immature. We thought that we were too old to keep making paper chains but not old enough to take up knitting needles.
I think that’s bogus.
Thankfully I grew up in a household where I was encouraged to keep crafting no matter how old I was. I traded my finger paints and pipe cleaners for beads and wire during my jewelry-making phase. Then I took up sewing and bobbin lace, and I was probably the only middle schooler in Nebraska who spent her Monday afternoons weaving with elderly women. Now I’ve built up quite the yarn collection thanks to my obsession with all things crochet.
I know that I’m a part of the minority of college students who brought their craft projects with them and thinks that Pinterest is the epitome of social media. But I think that there’s something truly beneficial about crocheting a blanket when I have trouble sleeping or when I need something to do during a dry Zoom call. Crafting — regardless of our age — should always be a part of our lives.
Studies have shown that anything creative — from completing crossword puzzles to embroidery — has numerous benefits beyond the finished product. Getting completely absorbed in an activity puts us in a state of flow that is similar to meditation and reduces stress and inflammation. Our brains release dopamine when we’re in the midst of creating or seeing a finished product, making crafting an all-natural antidepressant.
Given the stressful nature of these past nine months, I think having a creative outlet is more important than ever. As an added bonus, the mental stimulation and concentration associated with using your hands can help ward off dementia and other negative aspects of aging.
Another positive aspect of taking up coloring or whittling is that it allows you to conquer creative perfectionism. Personally, I struggle with the need for every detail of every assignment I turn in and every voicemail I leave to be absolutely perfect. But the more I continue to crochet or work through my national park-themed coloring books, the better grasp I have on being able to push past my perfectionist tendencies. When I know that I’m the only one judging my crafting and can recognize that I’m my harshest critic, I can apply that to the rest of my life.
Maybe you don’t think having a creative outlet is worth the time, or maybe you think that artistic stuff isn’t “your thing.” But there are loads of different ways to unlock that natural antidepressant, especially now that the sun shines for approximately three hours every day. Whether it's completing a puzzle or doing your makeup, there is truly something for everyone.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a blanket to make.
Chloe Herbert is a freshman history major. Reach her at email@example.com.