When you think of crocheting, or knitting, the mental image that you see in your head is usually rather cozy, but also rather solitary. And there’s nothing wrong with that—who could say no to any activity that most often occurs under a cozy blanket, maybe even next to a crackling fire on a quiet evening?

It’s no secret that crafting is a great way to engage your hands and mind. There are studies that even suggest that these activities could prevent the onset of dementia. However, crafting doesn’t have to be strictly relegated to the walls of your own home. And research suggests that social crafting—the idea of crafting in a collaborative environment—provides the same (and more) benefits as crafting alone.

What is Social Crafting and Why Do I Need it?

You might’ve seen it before. You might have even felt a slight hint of yearning, too, when you laid eyes on it. Of course, you’re at your local coffee shop and look over to the corner of the room to see what all the commotion is about. And you see a group of people socializing and having fun while crafting. They could be crocheting, painting, or any number of things one usually does by themselves. But they’ve broken out of that mold. What they’re participating in goes by many different names, but a popular one is social crafting. And there’s a reason you feel that trace of yearning when you look over at their table—you know you need it in your life! There are many reasons why you shouldn’t miss out on the transformative experience of social crafting.

Social Crafting Makes You a Better Problem Solver

The Teaching Center is a branch of Washington University of St. Louis—they’re focus is in creating a pervasive culture of collaboration at the University. And much of their research covering group work indicates that it has far-reaching benefits, some of which are obvious while others may surprise you.

Truthfully, sometimes we’re lacking a certain skill or we’re not in the right frame of mind to accomplish a particular task in front of us. You might find yourself hung up on the big picture, no longer able to make any progress due to the seemingly overwhelming nature of your goal. And while walking away from a project for a bit can help our minds reset, we could also utilize the benefits of a collaborative environment to get that same effect in an instant. It’s not a secret—working in a group allows you to break down a project into its bare components, which makes it much easier to solve.

Social crafting is no different. It offers that same collaborative environment that emphasizes so well out-of-the-box thinking. And it’s not just going to make you better at knitting, or improve your painting. It makes you a better collaborator, which in turn makes you a better problem solver. These skills are fundamental and ones you use every single day. And even if you’re not explicitly working together on a single project, you’re still reaping the rewards of collaboration. Social crafting allows you to work alone while enlisting the advice and knowledge of others. And it’s been said that there are clear cognitive benefits when socializing while working.

Working in a Team Teaches you to Achieve More On Your Own

Collaboration isn’t just a skill you develop and use when in a group environment. It’s a skill that resonates throughout your daily life. It makes you sharper and many of the skills it teaches you in an environment of collaboration can be applied to individual situations.

Breaking down a complicated task into the sum of its parts is not just a problem-solving trick you use as a team. It’s something that’s relevant to individual work as well. As you get better at working within a group, you’ll find you also transfer those same skills to your individual day-to-day. In the case of social crafting, you’re taking the input and knowledge of others home with you. And even beyond that, you’re carrying that knowledge into other aspects of your life outside of crafting. Think of collaboration as sharpening the edge of a knife—one side of the knife is social; the other side is solitary. The art of collaboration is such a universal tool that it sharpens both sides. And if you think that all of this sounds a bit lofty when applied to social crafting—just remember that there’s no difference between social crafting and any other kind of collaboration. It all stimulates your mind, brings together varying perspectives, and allows you to carry those perspectives into other parts of your life.

Carnegie Mellon University, in its research on social collaboration, points toward other benefits that are translatable as solitary skills. For instance, working in a social setting teaches you to better challenge assumptions. What does that mean, exactly? In the case of social crafting, you may assume that there is only one way to accomplish a task until another person’s perspective shows you otherwise. While that may seem relatively inconsequential in the case of crafting, it’s certainly a skill you can take away from that context and apply elsewhere. What better way to challenge your own perspective than in a fun, social environment? It’s these kind of entertaining, low-risk situations that can often teach you valuable skills in a pleasant way. Skills that you can then apply when is more high stress, high stakes situations. Getting outside and partaking in a social activity is really a win-win situation.

Working Together Lifts Our Spirits

At the end of the day, people need to give themselves time for personal connection. This is true in and outside of their career. And what better way to make and maintain these connections than with social crafting? Working together as a group and and doing something you love doesn’t just build character, it better defines the character you already have. Is there a better way to challenge your perceptions than to see them out of the normal context of your own solitary thoughts? Surrounding yourself with other people removes the echo chamber of the mind that you’re so accustomed to.

And there is no greater feeling than when you work successfully in a group. But like any skill, teamwork is not always intrinsic. It more than likely needs practice, just like you need to practice your crafting. When you come together with others and work tangibly toward something and actually find that you’re good at it, it enhances that end result greatly and lifts the spirit of the room. And that boost in morale will open even more creative avenues, giving you better results the more you do it. Most of all, the act of working together is a holistic and satisfying experience.

If You Can Do It as A Group, You Should

As it’s been said, collaboration makes you a better teammate, a better individual, and gives you superior results. And it doesn’t even matter if you’re closely working together or just working in proximity, sharing thoughts and ideas as they come to you. The very act of inserting yourself into a social environment will give you a better outcome and provide you with lasting benefits of both mind and body.

Crafting is often seen as a solitary activity. But it’s time to put that notion to rest. Like anything, it benefits from a group setting. It also inspires creativity, helps you find better solutions faster, and it simply makes you feel good. Most of all, it’s nice to feel like you are part of something bigger. So if you’re a crafter, or someone interested in getting into it, think about finding a circle of social crafters. And if you can’t find one—don’t be afraid to host your own!