Crafting Serenity: The Healing Touch of Art & Craft in Mental Health

Many might not know, but engaging in various forms of expressions, be it painting, poetry, carpentry or dancing- they all have a therapeutic affect on mind.

Molly’s experience serves as a testament to the ability of artistic expression to surpass issues pertaining to one’s mental health. She found an ally in art which provided a safe haven. Molly found a way to recover and discover herself via her dedication to the creative process in addition to a way to express herself.

She was 15 years old when she started suffering from depression, anxiety and eating disorder. However, it was her craft where she was able to find solace. “I have struggled with my mental health since I was 15. I’ve used craft to sort of overturn quite a lot of things. Every time I was in the hospital, I was taking my crafts with me,” she said.

At the age of 19, she had to drop out of university due to poor health. Whenever she’d get admitted in hospital, she’d carry her sewing machine and keep herself engaged. “I’ve been in five impatient units in the last seven years for six at a time”, she said. To her, it was her way of keeping the fact that she’s admitted in a hospital a secret by sending pictures of new craftwork.

Crafting is universal; it’s not confined to age or talent. The key is finding an activity that suits you, turns anxious energy into positivity, and becomes a source of joy and pride.

– Molly Bee

She said that whenever she’d start crafting, she’d be in a trance of sorts where she would go on creating something new. “Having crafts was really therapeutic to me. My mind just took over by sort of crafting and what I was going to create,” she said. 

But the question remains the same, why go for crafting and not choose professional help? “I found it really difficult talking to my parents or anyone. It was easier to express myself through my craft work”, Molly said.

Noa Man, an art psychotherapist based in Cardiff said that many people either choose not to or simply just cannot talk and express themselves. She said that there are a plethora of reasons why many cannot express themselves. Some obvious assumptions could be either the experience was too traumatic for them to re-tell, or maybe the therapist does not know the problem. 

Art is not limited to the talented or those without learning disabilities. It’s a tool for everyone’s mental health, providing a personalized and flexible approach tailored to each individual’s needs.

– Noa Man

Art, on the contrary, gives them the flexibility and a sense of control over when and how they would want to open up. “Art is giving the option of expressing yourself without those words”, she said. Because there is no sufficient professional help, people choosing art are just basically letting out their emotions through art or craft. Noa thinks that any creative action is very healthy, as creativity activates parts in brain which otherwise are not being activated, thereby helping one express themselves easily.

However, Serena Cutler here accidentally found out that painting helps her mental well-being. “I started doing art because I wanted to put something on the wall in my house. I needed a painting or something and I didn’t have enough money so I bought the stuff and started painting on my own. Soon I realized that painting helps with my mental health.”

Art takes time to master, but even in the process, you can find comfort and relaxation.”

– Serena Cutler

Serena sells her paintings, not only sharing her work and thoughts, but also to earn a living for herself. She sells her painting on her website and hopes to reach out to many people. “With art, you have something tangible to show for your efforts. It’s something you can instantly show someone and say, ‘I did this.’ The benefits for self-esteem are really good” she said as she mentioned how people regardless should take up art.

Before she had her art, all of her goals were focused on getting a job to pay for things. She reminisced melancholically her days when she couldn’t find job because she lacked qualification. That, in itself, was stressful, especially without qualifications. “Art provided a way for me to start something without the need for traditional qualifications”, she said.

While art gave her a source of income, it also gave her confidence and a boost in self-esteem. She reiterated how art kept engrossed and distracted you for a couple of hours, helping with sleep and improving overall mental health. “It gives you a sense of achievement and a positive focus, breaking the cycle of worry”, she said.

Serena also believes that one doesn’t have to be particularly talented or have to take up courses to learn art and crafts. She told us how she started learning from the free courses available, Bob Ross videos on Youtube and learned how to make landscapes. She further got into psychedelic, abstract and fantasy art.

“Art is amazing because most artists are a little bit unusual. Most artists don’t fit in school and meeting other people that have had that experience, it makes a real difference to your mental health,” she said.

Molly and Serena might have realized how art helps their mental health differently, however one common thing they both share is their love for art and craft and wanting to share the joys with others.

Molly owns a business of her own where she holds various workshops and helps people learn art and craft. “I started working with the Prince’s trust as soon as I left hospital 2 years ago, my business started as a mindful craft group every week in the community, but I had interest from schools and organisations, so instead of running a community group I now go into places and run workshops for pre-existing groups of people, pupils in schools, youth groups, employees, service users etc,” she said.

Noa Man said that the entire process is a very slow process but it gives the support that one will need to deal with complicated issues. “It’s not like giving solutions, it’s like working together to see what’s the situation and the art is like it becomes like third party in the process”, she said.

Unfortunately, not many are aware about the positive effects of art on ones mental health. Serena wishes that more and more people be aware of how art helps, and they should taking up art because “being an artists is not about fitting in, but to express yourself.”