There’s no doubt, electronic devices have made human communication faster, brought a mind-boggling amount of information to our fingertips, and have made getting directions a whole lot easier than ‘turn right where the old mill used to be...'. While this increased access is amazing and convenient, it might also be leading us away from an important human activity: handmade creation.
Here at Scrapbook.com, over the last 6 months, we've researched extensively the effects of screen time (time spent on digital devices) and conversely, the positive effects of crafting and other handmade creativity. We've read books and scoured studies and we even conducted our own survey of over 1,500 people to try and understand it better. The resulting data is presented below in a comprehensive - and fun - article. Without giving too much away, this article will likely change the way you think about crafting - and screen time - forever.
It's not just digital devices that are problematic. We live in a historic time of convenience where nearly everything we need or want is pre-made, packaged and available for immediate purchase. We don't have to grow our own food or raise our own cattle. We don't have to make our own clothes or thank-you cards. It seems everything we need can be delivered to our doorstep with the click of a mouse or touch on our phone. That's a problem because we're hardwired to create things with our hands, and our brains need the handmade self-expression. Consider that the rate of depression in industrialized nations has increased tenfold over the last 60 years. That steep rise coincides directly with rapid technological advancements. Meanwhile, the Amish communities in the U.S., who create almost everything they have by hand, have very low incidences of depression.
Neuroscientist Kelly Lambert, in her book Lifting Depression explains, "No matter how enriching or pleasurable we find surfing the Web, emailing, listening to our iPods, reading a novel, or watching American Idol, our brains still crave the feelings associated with survival-based outcomes that were so important in its own evolution. We're programmed to experience satisfaction and a sense of well-being after we exert meaningful effort and use our hands..." Or, in other words, we were born with opposable thumbs for a reason, and it's not so that we can text faster! She goes on to explain that, in modern society, we rarely engage the brain areas that control creativity using the hands and that can lead to malaise and even mild to medium depression. Perhaps we've reached a point in modern society where, for most us, making things by hand is - from a practical standpoint - almost entirely unnecessary, and yet it's also simultaneously critical for our physical and emotional health.
“Crafting: it’s cheaper than therapy.” Most any crafter will nod emphatically in agreement...even after restocking their paper and glitter stash. Crafting can actually function as a natural antidepressant. Carrie Barron, M.D., a psychiatrist and the co-author of The Creativity Cure: How to Build Happiness With Your Own Two Hands, published an article that asserts, "Creating something with your hands fosters pride and satisfaction, but also provides psychological benefits. When you make something, you feel productive, but the engagement and exploration involved in the doing can move your mind and elevate your mood." She explains that handmade self-expression can even help us to let go of negative thoughts or experiences: "You may or may not be conscious of what perturbs you, but creative action with your hands, mind, and body can turn undermining forces into usable energies." Lambert also explores the psychological and emotional benefits of handmade crafts and comes to similar conclusions: "It seems clear that tasks involving the hands - cooking, gardening, crafts - have a therapeutic effect on many people." And "we get a deep sense of emotional satisfaction and well-being when we do something that requires physical effort, including coordination and especially movement of the hands."