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Crazy for Crafting? These Craft Kits Soothe and Improve (Anxiety and Brain Health, Respectively) — And Are Super Fun

Unleashing your inner artist is easier than you think.


I remember completing endless art projects back when I was in school. It seems like we were always learning some crafty new skill, from sewing to beading to decoupaging. But the obligations of adulthood provide scant time for creativity. These days, I’m more likely to be working at my computer or meal prepping in the kitchen than indulging in artistic endeavors, which is unfortunate, given what we know about brain health. Many physicians and mental health experts say that creative activities engender a peacefulness similar to what happens during meditation. They also suggest that engaging in creative activities sharpens cognitive functioning as we age. Crafting is thus a form of stress relief and self-care.

If you’re raring to get crafting, but either don’t know where to start or aren’t confident in your skills, use a craft kit. Below are a few of my favorites, all of which are beginner-friendly.

A sparkly craft: Diamond Art

If paint isn’t your thing but you love a good sparkle, diamond art might be for you. Diamond art is enormously popular on TikTok (the #diamondpainting hashtag has over 6 billion views), thanks to its glitzy visual appeal. To make diamond art, you’ll need a kit (available from brands like Diamond Art Club or Paint With Diamonds) that includes four items:

  1. pre-printed canvas
  2. array of “diamonds” (they’re actually pieces of shiny resin, reminiscent of rhinestones) in colors that correspond to different parts of the design
  3. applicator that lets you easily apply the diamonds to the canvas
  4. wax to make the diamonds stick, and a pair of tweezers to help you pick up the gems.

Because there’s no paint or clean-up involved, crafts like diamond art can be less messy and frustrating than other endeavors. Plus, there’s a number of designs to choose from, ranging from replicas of famous paintings and images from popular culture, to cute animal pictures. And diamond art isn’t just pretty to look at — it also scratches the ASMR itch. (ASMR is a mysterious phenomenon wherein pleasant sounds or visuals induce a tingling sensation. For some, the sensation is physical; for others, it’s mental.) You may experience ASMR from creating diamond art yourself or watching close-up videos of others doing so. The most popular diamond art videos on TikTok feature an #ASMR hashtag and yield comments about how relaxing they are to watch.

A colorful craft: Adult Coloring Books

Coloring books aren’t just for kids. These days, adult coloring books are all the rage, and for good reason: they can help relax your brain and even improve its function, as different parts of your cerebral hemispheres are activated when you color. Like puzzles, adult coloring books became increasingly popular during the early days of the pandemic, as they provided a great source of focused, screen-free activity. You can find adult coloring books with myriad themes, from intricate patterns inspired by mandala art, to floral patterns, to astrology. (Both ColorIt and Dover offer an excellent variety of options.) Their designs, which are more challenging than those intended for children, are a mix of constraint and creativity: you’re allowed to choose your color palette and drawing medium, but you’re meant to stay inside the lines.

A sticky craft: Paint by Sticker

You’ve likely heard of paint by numbers, but what about paint by sticker? Paint by sticker takes the form of a booklet filled with image templates, plus a set of stickers meant to correspond with specific areas of the image. If you took pride in your sticker collection as a kid, you’ll get similar satisfaction from peeling the stickers off the sheet and placing them in the designated spots. The individual stickers initially appear abstract, but eventually come together to create recognizable forms. Workman Publishing makes paint-by-sticker sets featuring famous artworks, animals, and even popular musicians.

A throwback craft: Cross-Stitch 

Cross-stitch, a simple form of needlework in which stitches are used to make a pattern, has been a beloved craft for hundreds of years. While you can cross-stitch whatever design you want, many crafters opt for kits (try Everything Cross-Stitch, Cross-Stitch World, or Stitched Modern); these typically come with a piece of fabric stretched on a hoop and printed with a design, a needle, and colored threads. You build your pattern by repeating simple stitches with threads that correspond to the colors in the design, and continue stitching until you’ve completed the picture. Unlike larger sewing projects, you’re doing the same kind of stitch repeatedly — which keeps things easy for beginners. Just be careful not to prick your finger as you let your mind wander!

Craft Your Heart Out

You don’t have to be an artist to try these craft kits, and anyone can reap the stress-relieving benefits. Although these crafts may encourage you to color inside the lines rather than approach a blank canvas with a new idea, those limits will also provide a much-needed sense of serenity. Once you finish any of the crafts above, you’ll have your very own masterpiece to display. Let us know which one you try in the comments.

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