The human brain is an interesting thing. The development of the brain is an ongoing process that begins even before birth and continues well into adulthood. It starts by creating simple sensory pathways for vision and hearing at the very beginning before developing higher cognitive functions. Brain architecture is influenced by several factors, from genetics to personal experiences. The right nutrition in kids can ensure that the brain gets a healthy start and lays a solid foundation for health throughout their life.
Creativity also plays a major role in brain development. It is hard to imagine any human innovation and progress without a creative mind. Art and crafts play a significant role in controlling stress, allowing for better handling of associated emotions.
Why is crafting good for the brain?
Traditionally, craft has been defined as the skill to make things, especially with your hands. The popularity of crafting has grown over the past few years as people have begun recognizing the enjoyment derived from craft activities. Crafting can provide both creative leisure and therapeutic effects.
- Crafting for health
- Why is crafting good for mental health?
- Health benefits of crafting
- How crafting affects your brain?
Several studies have also shown that crafting positively affects the brain by improving one’s social skills by fostering friendship, sharing, and a sense of belonging.
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- Craft groups: Sites of friendship, empowerment, belonging, and learning for older women
- Older Women and Craft: Extending Educational Horizons in Considering Wellbeing
Among other positive effects of crafting is the ‘concept of flow,’ recognized by the Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Psychological flow has been defined as the intense involvement in an activity through which a person derives enjoyment and meaningfulness.
People involved in crafting often use it as a means of identity and expression. They also enjoy the feel of the materials, the repetition, and the tempo during the process, which gives the feeling of enjoyment and engagement. It allows them to organize their thoughts and promotes a better understanding of self.
Crafting affects the psychological well-being of individuals
Crafting has been known to positively affect psychological well-being by having a protective or healing effect on the mental, social, and physical well-being of an individual.
Crafting can have therapeutic effects as it not only allows self-expression but also reduces stress, which, in turn, improves the immune system and reduces blood pressure. It has also been known to reduce anxiety and distress and helps cope with previously unresolved emotions and other issues in life.
Crafting has also been recognized as a means to achieve relaxation and enhance physical and mental well-being.
- The therapeutic effectiveness of creative activities on mental well-being
- Artistic tasks outperform non-artistic tasks for stress reduction
- The mental health benefits of crafting
- The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature
Crafting improves cognitive abilities
Our cognitive abilities are largely dependent on our motor skills. Studies have shown that restrictions on physical activities also restrict mental abilities. A study in which the participants’ hands were immobilized also showed that some part of their cognitive ability was also lost, indicating that human cognitive abilities are enhanced by the use of hands.
The starting point of cognition is the interaction between a baby and its environment. The human mind is constructed through an individual’s experience while interacting with their material and social environment. The material interaction that takes place during crafting has several implications and significance for psychological well-being.
According to Margaret Wilson, cognition has certain properties like
- Cognition is situated
- Cognition is time-pressured
- People offload cognitive work into the environment
- The environment forms a part of the cognitive system
- Cognition is for action
- Off-line cognition is body-based
Several other studies have also shown that crafts allow students to use their full cognitive abilities in grasping difficult concepts related to mathematics, architecture, and engineering design.
- Relationship between motor and cognitive learning abilities among primary school-aged children
- Teaching Engineering design through Legos
- Making Mathematics with needlework
Crafting and brain development
Neuroscience proves that crafting activates the motor, somatosensory, and visual areas of the brain. Stimulating these areas is especially crucial in childhood to ensure that they develop normally. Somatosensory stimulation and the use of hands also plays an extremely important part in the rehabilitation of the many disabled and elderly people whose sensory system may have been impaired.
During crafting, a person touches several different materials and surfaces that give a wide range of somatosensory stimulation. When used for this specific purpose, it is important to use different materials to improve the sense of opposites, such as soft and hard, light and heavy, or warm and cold.
When you touch different objects, surfaces, or materials, it activates both your cutaneous senses as your brain responds to pressure, vibration, and temperature and haptic senses that your brain uses to perceive shape, surface texture, and weight. Crafting, thus, creates higher levels of mindfulness that improves psychological health and reduces negative emotions.
Touching and forming crafting materials also activates the motor areas in your brain. Your brain needs both coarse and fine-grained tasks for the proper development of hand-eye coordination. The motor system begins developing in infancy and is also tied to the human visual system. Crafting benefits the development of the visual system through exposure to color, small intricate details, three-dimensional objects, and the effects of seeing one’s own actions.
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- Fine motor skill and cognition development in children
- Expressive Therapies Continuum: A Framework for Using Art in Therapy
Crafting and brain plasticity
Brain plasticity or neuroplasticity refers to the human brain’s ability to change through growth and reorganization and adapt as a result of experience. It means that the brain alters its function according to your actions and experiences, and whatever you do long enough will eventually change your brain.
According to a paper published by Kujala et al., 1995, in congenitally blind individuals, auditory information is processed by that part of the brain that processes visual information in sighted individuals. Neuroplasticity in blind people gives them an increased capacity for auditory processing, sometimes resulting in superior hearing skills.
Image credit: Britannica
Skills acquired by brain plasticity can be crucial for managing sensory impairments for continued learning and personal well-being. For instance, deaf-blind people who participate in ceramic crafting classes develop a new tactile skill of throwing clay on the potter’s wheel. Crafting’s multisensory qualities can be vital in facilitating communication and the development of new skills in people with sensory restrictions or impairments.
According to Tyler and Likova, crafting or other visual art depends on integrating different motor, cognitive, and perceptual functions. Hence, there is a strong potential for cross-transfer.
Crafting involves a lot of fine motor movements that stimulate both the somatosensory and motor areas of the brain.
The mirror neuron system
A mirror neuron system is a group of specialized neurons that understand and learn from the actions of other people. It is an important neurophysical mechanism that is responsible for understanding, mimicking, and learning from other’s actions for the development of multiple psychosocial skills. It allows you to interact socially and emotionally with your friends and family and to understand their intentions. The art of crafting also is somewhat based on imitating others’ activities and building upon one’s own experiences.
- Brain basis of human social interaction: From concepts to brain imaging
- The mirror neuron system and the consequences of its dysfunction
When you learn a manual skill, simulating or imitating the actions of your teacher is important. It has enabled craft skills to be traditionally passed on from one person to another. The mirror neuron system of the human brain allows the knowledge of crafts to be passed down through generations.
Handling failures and emotions
If you have ever been engaged in a creative activity, be it crafting or other art forms, you learn to recognize the emotions that come with it. According to neuroscience, emotions are a key part of our cognitive abilities. Emotions also have the ability to affect the various cognitive functions, from attentiveness to memory to perception.
Crafting helps us guide our emotions by helping us assess the possibilities and risks of our actions and the affordability of the materials. When we face challenges during a creative process, we often develop the fear of failing. Failure, however, is not always a bad thing. Failure is a vital part of innovation and exploration. Crafting can be a good arena to practice failing.
In Mindset: The new psychology of success, Carol Dweck proposes two types of mindsets- the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset perceive failure as a permanent inability to function and complete a task. On the other hand, those with a growth mindset accept the challenges and look for new approaches to complete the tasks.
Crafting can help you overcome disappointments through motivation and a better understanding of the purpose of the activity.
Crafting can not just be an enjoyable activity but can also have a profound effect on brain development. It can play a key role in reducing stress, anxiety, and help to improve your overall quality of life.