By Tamra Booth, Keeeps
Even before Covid, one in six young people aged between 15-16 had a mental disorder and the effects of the pandemic have no doubt increased this statistic. Youth Mental Health Day was founded by the charity, stem4 in 2020 with the aim of supporting young people to build positive mental health. So, we wanted to share with you how making pottery can really benefit your mental wellness, whether you are in your teens or otherwise!
It is reported that teenagers’ mental health is being damaged by heavy social media use, with the platforms exacerbating the worries that teenagers already stress about at school. Whilst social media can be a force for good, a growing body of research highlights the negative psychological effects of social media on youths. Namely, there is no escape. Social media allows the school day to continue far beyond the final bell.
Whist we have spoken about how pottery took the lockdown world by storm, largely due to the positive mindful effects on adults (anyone that has squished a bit of wet clay in between their fingers will understand when I say there is something very therapeutic about that!), there is no doubt that pottery could also help teens and kids. It’s impossible to do pottery whilst scrolling through Instagram – seriously, no teenager is putting their muddy hands anywhere near their iPhone! This means, a few well needed hours off their phone, doing something completely different. If that’s not enough of a sell (!) then here are our top 5 reasons why pottery is great for your mental wellbeing, whether you’re a teen struggling through school or a fully-fledged adult stressing about life!
5 ways making pottery can benefit mental wellbeing
1. Encourages sociability
As human beings, we dream, learn, grow, and work as part of society the societies that shape our personal identities but a study has also shown that those who struggle in social situations may be at greater risk of mental and physical health problems. Pottery is the perfect hobby for those that feel a little anxious in groups because it is largely solitary work, giving you a chance to switch off and work solo, but also a chance to socialise in between creating, as potters and students often work or take classes side by side at studios and tend to form a community. They’re also a lovely friendly bunch, guaranteed to put you at ease.
2. Reduces stress
Unfortunately, stress is unavoidable and is just a part of life, with the trick lying in managing that stress and limiting those inevitable negative effects that stress has on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing. We all have ways to combat stress, whether that be going for a run, taking the dog out for a walk, getting in a daily yoga practice during the day to provide a bit of “you-time”. Pottery isn’t something that automatically pops to mind when thinking about mindfulness practices, but it has so many calming and soothing benefits.
It’s long been realised that art therapy makes people feel relaxed, thus lowering stress levels, and a recent study has confirmed these benefits. The research concluded that art activities, including using clay, can lower the stress hormone cortisol, after just 45 minutes.
3. Improves focus and being present
Making pottery allows you to escape the worries of life and shift your focus toward your creation. Being able to fully focus on something helps the mind relax and expand, which will help you be more present when carrying out other tasks in your daily life.
Garthine Walker, therapist and psychotherapeutic counsellor, said that people suffering from anxiety, stress and depression can benefit from these mindful activities, as it “can help clients learn to self-regulate, to bring themselves back to the present when their thoughts and feelings have run away with them to the past or future.”
Many potters described clay work as a way to get out of their heads and into their bodies, much like meditation. Most people work alone on a project and there’s a kind of quiet, or flow-state, that comes over the artist as they allow themselves to join the clay.
4. Provides a creative outlet
Humans are made to be active and creative, and we have used our hands to survive for thousands of years. The boom in technology, has meant that we sit behind a desk or over a computer, whether at work, or school or at home with social media and gaming so we tend get through our day with far less physical effort than is optimal for body and mind.
“Working with our hands may be key to maintaining a healthy mood”, and the hand-brain connection is crucial to human beings, creating a positive feedback loop that can really help you grow.  In today’s world, making pottery allows a moment for your brain to be “offline”, allows you to get out of your head (giving that brain a rest!) and into your body.
School or work may not provide an opportunity to be creative but “Craft can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, loneliness and even dementia, according to research.” Making pottery could be the extra-curricular or after-work creative hobby your mind needs to find a bit of calm and peace.
5. Creates optimistic and positive outlook
Learning a new skill also makes us think and feel more positive. “It exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence and resilience”. Making pottery is a great new skill to learn as you have something tangible at the end. Whilst it might not be the perfect work of art to start with, it’s something that you made from scratch and something to look at and be proud of.
From end of October, Keeeps will be running pottery classes from our amazing store in Marlow. If you fancy giving pottery a go, head to our website and book yourself on. Not only will you learn a new skill, but you’ll meet some lovely people, switch off for a few hours and you might even go home with a little handmade something for your home!