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Why Making Things Helps Us Thrive

We can all use more things in our life that make us feel happy and fulfilled. There has been a cultural renaissance these last few years as we learn more about what really motivates people. It’s something we nearly lost in our manufacturing-heavy culture: the pleasure associated with making things and sharing one’s creations with others. This is also a business opportunity, so read on if you are intrigued by the idea of turning your passion into an enterprise.

This is a revolution. If you can imagine it, you can make it. And that’s new to the world. – Mark Hatch, CEO, Maker Media

Your Brain on Creativity

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Why does making and sharing things feel so good? It begins with creativity, one of those things that spurs us on to ever greater accomplishments. There is nothing quite like creative experiences to throttle our brains into happier brain chemistry by putting us into the flow states associated with positive psychology. And creative thinking also has benefits in other parts of our lives: it improves problem-solving, big picture and design thinking, as well as collaboration with others.

It doesn’t matter whether you are into art, crafts, DIY, or tinkering, your brain loves to create and rewards you for doing so. The process of creating and sharing your creations releases dopamine, a natural anti-depressant in your brain. Dopamine is the brain chemical associated with reward and the pleasurable sensations that come from it. It’s like we are wired to create. But legions of artists, crafters, do-it-yourselfers and makers could tell you that!

There’s survey evidence to support crafting’s dopamine effect. In one study of more than 3,500 knitters, published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting. More than half reported feeling “very happy.”

The positive effect of creative activities is well-documented in the scientific literature. Creativity and the novel experiences associated with it keep the brain agile and also motivate us. Things as simple as coloring or doodling encourage this effect, but the most benefit comes from ongoing creative pursuits:

Crafting can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression or chronic pain, experts say. It may also ease stress, increase happiness and protect the brain from damage caused by aging. – CNN

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

The following talk by British educator Sir Ken Robinson is one of the most popular TED Talks of all time. He argues that creativity is more important than literacy and that traditional schooling kills creativity. This is especially true now that home economics, woodshop, arts, and music are disappearing from schools. Less young people are learning how to cook, sew, and build via formal education, although classes, camps and after-school activities are filling the gap. Robinson says that our innate drive to create and to embrace trial and error are not valued in an educational system that tries to minimize failure. Creativity also tends to be multi-disciplinary, which is not widely embraced in our siloed educational systems.

DIY & Maker Culture

A major trend the last decade or so has been a shift towards people becoming more and more creative and leveraging that creativity to explore new interests or even launch new businesses. We’re creating handmade and one-of-a-kind items that stand out in the world of mass manufacturing. Some of us are launching businesses on sites like Etsy, an extravaganza of novel items launched from creative brains (which boasts 25 million shoppers). This has been fueled, as well, by the recession economy that has turned so many people into entrepreneurs:

In a world of mass-produced products, modern technology has made it easier than ever for a single individual to create and distribute items that are customizable and unique without having middlemen like manufacturers. This growing shift will continue to affect the economy and will likely have big implications on large retailers. It is a special time in history that will have a transformative impact on our future. – Huffington Post

You might have heard about the Maker movement, a grassroots movement based on the emergence of consumer-level tools for design and manufacturing. It’s reported that 135 million Americans are makers, which is nearly half the population. The maker manifesto calls for making, sharing, giving, and learning. It’s making a difference. MakerFaires are popping up everywhere, and there are other maker-inspired communities and events, as well:

Craft nights are replacing book clubs. Libraries and museums are being turned into “Makerspaces,” physical locations where people can come together to make. The sale of sewing kits in Walmart stores has recently gone up 30 percent. And just last year, someone created Christmas cookies using a 3D printer. – Huffington Post

This has become a major economic phenomenon because of a perfect storm of conditions:

  • Access to increasingly sophisticated tools to create, like 3-D printers.
  • The ability to find inspiration online.
  • Crowdfunding to make your idea reality.
  • Online marketplaces and social channels to get feedback and distribute creations.
  • Inexpensive and effective tools for branding, marketing, and promotion.
  • Learning opportunities provided by other creators.

Boosting Your Creativity and Learning DIY Skills

Albert Einstein said that creativity is intelligence having fun. At Connect2Classes, we are committed to helping our learners explore their creative potential. Creative businesses can be some of the most fulfilling, as well as being lucrative in a world of people looking for unique and one-of-a-kind items. We’d love to hear about how your creative endeavors affect your life – please comment!

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