Make something with your hands (even if it’s horrible)

I once decorated a mirror with shells, but I keep it in a cupboard. I love it, even though it looks a bit messy. Sometimes I hesitate whether to throw it away and then carefully put it back on the shelf.

It turns out that many of us have a strong connection to the things we make, even if they look pretty awful, says Michael Norton, a Harvard business professor and author of “The Ritual Effect.”

Dr. Norton once took a stone carving class, he told me, and tried to chisel a symbol (“the best description I can give is a circular shape with flames”), but part of the stone broke off “making it look as if it had been carved by a toddler was made’. Still, every time he moved, he carefully wrapped the piece of stone in bubble tape and took it with him.

This is because we often see the things we make as part of our identity, said Dr. Norton, who has led research about how people come to value objects. Our creations help us “gain a sense of self-confidence and a sense of mastery that is sometimes very difficult to get in other places,” he added.

Making things with your hands is also good for your brain. And research shows that DIY projects, whether it’s planting an herb garden or building a birdhouse, are rewarding; they can help increase happiness And lower voltage.

When was the last time you made something just for fun? If you want to become a maker (or if it’s been a while), here’s how to get started.

Christianne Strang, an art therapist and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, recommended starting small by drawing for a few minutes in the morning while you make your coffee.

Air-drying modeling clay is also “great for working with your hands,” she added. (And you can easily start over if you want.) Or you can learn how to make simple origami from online tutorials or books.

Take a look around your space and see if you already buy something that might be fun to make. Beat it up a bit salad dressing or quick picklesboth of which have a chef-like flavor, yet are hard to mess up.

A friend of mine made her herself environmentally friendly cleaning products with just a few ingredients, when she couldn’t find a single ingredient she liked at the store.

For starters, you need to let go of the pressure you feel to be good at something, says Susie Brandt, an artist who currently teaches a workshop at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine.

“As an artist, I make things to surprise myself,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m going to get.”

Many local libraries offer craft workshops for adults. Or you can ask friends if they have skills they want to teach, Brandt said.

“There are people everywhere who know something and are happy to share it,” she said.

If you can, set up a space in your home for crafting, says Hinda Mandell, professor of communications at the Rochester Institute of Technology and editor of “Crafting Dissent.” Gather your materials and place them where you want to create, she says.

“Once they’re there, you can start tinkering and tinkering with them,” she said. “Because the goal is actually not so much to make something. The goal is to play even if you only have a few minutes break.”

My mother paints and she leaves a number of canvases and a watercolor set on a small table as a constant invitation to pick up a brush.

Sometimes a shell falls off my mirror, thanks to sparingly gluing. I told Dr. Norton I collected them on a family trip to Sanibel Island, Florida, so they remind me of a happy time.

You can increase your feelings of pride or ownership, Dr. Norton said, by choosing materials that have meaning to you. “It’s very, very powerful, actually,” he added, “to look at objects that evoke specific memories.”

My shell mirror looks messier every year. I’ll probably keep it forever.

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