Paint, knit and cook your way to happiness

Cooking a meal from scratch or knitting a jersey can ward off depression in students, new research suggests.

Creative activities such as knitting or cooking may help young adults ward off depression, a...
Creative activities such as knitting or cooking may help young adults ward off depression, a University of Otago study has found. Photo: Getty Images

Painting, drawing and writing also helps to boost a sense of well-being to keep spirits high. Experts say these ``old-fashioned activities'' that are favoured by the Women's Institute may lead to an upward spiral of emotions in young adults.

Rising stress levels have been linked to a host of serious illness including heart disease and cancer.

Researchers from the University of Otago, New Zealand, wanted to find out if engaging in normal creative acts make people feel better.

They asked 658 students to keep a daily diary of their experiences and emotional states over 13 days.

An analysis of the information, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, found a pattern of more enthusiasm and higher ``flourishing'' following days when the undergraduates were more creative.

Flourishing is a psychological concept that can be described as increasing positive growth.

Study author Dr Tamlin Conner said: ``There is growing recognition in psychology research that creativity is associated with emotional functioning.

``However, most of this work focuses on how emotions benefit or hamper creativity, not whether creativity benefits or hampers emotional well-being.

``Engaging in creative behaviour leads to increases in well-being the next day, and this increased well-being is likely to facilitate creative activity on the same day.

``Overall, these findings support the emerging emphasis on everyday creativity as a means of cultivating positive psychological functioning.''

However, feelings of happiness, joy and excitement did not predict creative activity the next day.

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