Have you felt the desire to transform into Martha Stewart with your gift-giving this year? A friend was telling me how she is inexplicably scrolling Pinterest late into the night, excitedly coming up with DIY gift ideas that she lacks the time to make.

Sometimes the DIY gift holds appeal, even when it takes more time and costs more money than clicking a button on Amazon. It turns out that this urge might be more than nostalgia or misplaced sentiment. Researchers have discovered that crafting can be good for mental health.

This Healthline article highlights several studies that show the mental health benefits of making gifts for others. From decreasing anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances to improving satisfaction with life and mental function, it’s amazing how far some hot glue can go to calm a frazzled mind.

Of course, this research isn’t groundbreaking. Art therapy has been used for the past 80 years to treat many mental and physical conditions. And ancient practices like the Indian system of Ayurveda recognize the importance of balance between mental, physical, and emotional activity.

The modern phenomenon of staring at a computer screen or a phone all day doesn’t exactly gel with this need for balance between working our minds and bodies. So it makes sense that tugging overextended minds back towards center with paint or wood or clay can help. That’s why I include art activities for caregivers and children to enjoy together in each Be Ready Explorers adventure. And I’m excited to launch a recorded art activity (like a virtual art class!), designed by a professional illustrator, to accompany the Senegal adventure in January! 

Especially in a year marked by disconnection from in-person relationships, the physical act of crafting a gift for a loved one may feel additionally meaningful.

Holiday craft ideas are almost unlimited (especially if you stay up too late on Pinterest), but here are a few suggestions to spark your imagination:

  • Bake and decorate sugar cookies,
  • Craft gingerbread houses with your children,
  • Stir together a jar of soothing bath salts,
  • Paint decorative drinking glasses,
  • Unwind with a coloring book,
  • Arrange string and nails into a string art masterpiece,
  • Cut decorative paper snowflakes to decorate your walls and windows, and
  • Plant a windowsill fairy garden.

Whether the positive mental supports come through the making or the giving, or maybe a combination of both like we discussed in the generosity and joy blog last week, doesn’t really matter. So make a gift for yourself! Or craft treasures for each special person in your life, if you have the time and ambition. The joy in experience, the satisfaction of completion, and the physical exertion of making all likely contribute to an improved mental state.

Oh, and one more thing that might help our crafty mental support? A sense of humor. Like those bakers on Nailed It!, laughing at our own mistakes can turn disastrous to delightful. 

Happy crafting!

Kristin Signature