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There’s nothing like a homemade gift.

It’s not only the thought that goes into it, but the personalization, the uniqueness, and the time spent making it.

As it turns out, DIYing is good for the doer too. It offers a range of mental health benefits that are associated with crafting up something special.

Knowing what to make is a different story though.

That’s why we put together this list of 10 DIY presents perfect for the season of giving, plus the health benefits of going homemade.

More than just a good way to kill some time, DIY activities can have a range of positive effects on mental health.

Art therapists have been doing research for years on the health and well-being benefits of crafting.

A 2010 review suggests that crafting and engaging in creative activities may help decrease anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances, as well improve well-being and quality of life.

One study found that people who engaged in arts and crafts, such as music, painting, drawing, textile crafts, and creative writing experienced lower levels of mental distress. They also experienced higher levels of mental functioning and life satisfaction.

A 2018 study suggests that crafting is calming, may promote successful aging, and even has long-term social and cultural benefits.

All good things. So let’s get started!

Doodling is the art of creating drawings or scribbling unconsciously or absentmindedly. Most of us can probably find some examples in our old school books.

More than a symptom of boredom, doodling also has a range of mental health benefits, including relaxation and reducing stress, mood regulation, memory recall, and creativity.

To turn drawing into a nifty DIY holiday gift, you can jazz up clothing or accessories for a loved one.

For example, grab a plain white pair of sneakers and put your own flair on them with a sharpie. This gift would be great for a younger sibling, cousin, or friend who loves to rock funky kicks.

Alternatively, you can doodle on a plain tote bag for an artsy aunt or uncle.

You can even turn your regular greeting cards into doodling masterpieces. All you need is plain card stock and some markers to make beautiful designs.

SweetPlanIt has some great ideas for simple, festive holiday doodles.

Baking some treats makes for a great gift. After all, who doesn’t like some delicious homemade bites?

Not only does spending time in the kitchen make the whole house smell festive and inviting, it also provides mental health benefits.

One study showed that adolescents with more cooking skills reported an overall greater sense of mental well-being and had fewer symptoms of depression.

Another study indicated that culinary therapy could help with grief.

Baking also makes for a versatile gift that’s good for just about anyone.

Make a plate of gingerbread cookies for the office, some sugar cookies for little ones in the family, or some peppermint fudge for dad.

You can even make gluten-free and sugar-free variations to suit different health needs.

Clay work has long been incorporated into art therapy as a means of creative expression. Research suggests it has therapeutic qualities, like increasing self-expression and reflection.

A 2012 study on creative clay work suggests that clay handling may greatly reduce negative moods and enhance positive ones.

Some research indicates that clay work may aid emotional regulation and depression.

To sculpt at home, you’re going to need some clay.

If you don’t own or have access to a kiln, look for self-hardening clay, also known as air-fried or non-firing clay. This type of clay will set without casting.

For example, try AMACO Air Dry Clay or Jovi Premium Air Dry Clay.

Polymer clay is also a fun option if you have the time to stick it in the oven. It comes in different colors and can be re-fired multiple times if you make changes or add additional clay.

Sculpey is a popular brand, and there are also kits available.

You can mold the clay into whatever form you’d like using your hands or common kitchen tools. You can make a ring dish for your spouse, a coaster for mom, or some clay plant pots for the green thumbs in the family.

You can find great ideas for clay gifts on Delicious and DIY.

Making a homemade holiday wreath not only encompasses the mental health benefits of crafting, it also offers an opportunity to get out in nature to gather your supplies.

There is a range of evidence to support the mental health benefits of being in nature or actively participating with it. This includes reducing levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, and reducing rumination on negative thoughts.

Experiencing nature has also been linked with having effects on memory, attention, concentration, impulse inhibition, and mood.

Exercise in nature has been shown to improve self-esteem and mood, according to a 2019 study.

As a plus, you can grab some green to make your wreath while you’re enjoying the outdoors. Just make sure it comes from somewhere it’s OK to forage (for instance, not your neighbor’s yard).

To make your wreath, start by grabbing some wire or metal frames, such as this 12-inch three pack or this 8-inch five pack.

Then, go out in nature and collect some fresh leaves, greenery, fresh flowers, pine cones, and other flora to work into the frame.

There are lots of styles to choose from, including thistle and pine, magnolia and citrus, fresh flowers and berries, or you can make up your own blend.

You can also try incorporating battery-operated lights to give your wreath a pretty nighttime glow.

This gift is perfect for parents, grandparents, or anyone who’d enjoy a low maintenance offering. Your homemade wreath will double as a way to brighten up their home or living space and as a reminder of your love for them.

If you have a sewing machine at home, a homemade quilt makes an excellent gift.

While this option may take a bit more skill, practice, and planning, it’s a functional, thoughtful gift that really shows you care.

Some research has shown that quilting can enhance overall well-being. For instance, a 2018 dissertation found that quilting was linked to positive emotion, creativity, and improved relationships.

To make a quilt, you need to either choose a pattern or create your own design.

To find design options online, try Live Art Gallery Fabrics. Then gather the necessary tools and get to work cutting and sewing the patchwork.

For a more thorough guide, head to We All Sew to get step-by-step instructions.

A quilt makes a perfect gift for the homebodies and movie lovers in the family. They can cuddle up on the couch with their cozy quilt and queue up their favorite streaming service.

Grab a canvas and paint a picture for a loved one. It may just foster feelings of empowerment and self-expression.

A 2013 study explored art therapy as a potential support for mental health treatment, linking it to a greater sense of well-being and independence. Another study noted that art therapy may serve as a coping tool for change.

So just let your brush guide you. You can also follow an online tutorial, for example Step By Step Painting or Maven Art’s painting tutorials for beginners.

If the idea of painting intimidates you or you want to go deep to use it as a healing tool, you can try a class like the Sacred Paintbrush Arts’ Intuitive Painting Class. Led by Amy Alaman, she’s quick to let participants know that “this is not an art class.” These workshops make great gifts too.

Whatever route you go, a painting makes a sincere, heartfelt gift.

If you’re new to the craft, grab a painting kit to get started. Try this acrylic paint set or this wallet-friendly watercolor starter kit.

Knitting may have positive psychological and social benefits, and even contribute to improved quality of life. These benefits include increasing and strengthening:

  • levels of happiness
  • self-esteem
  • confidence
  • a sense of accomplishment

A 2015 study found that knitting in social settings can promote positive well-being and general good health.

If you have some crafty buddies, you can get together for a socially distanced crafternoon. You can knit and catch up while you work away with your needles. Just having company during this time may be gift enough.

Another great thing about knitting is you don’t need many tools. You’ll need some knitting needles or you can grab a knitting kit.

For any sports fans in the family, you can knit a scarf or beanie in their team’s colors. For any fashionistas in the family, add some chunky merino wool to your project and make an oversized scarf.

This pattern from Country Living doesn’t even require needles.

If there are any little newcomers to the family, you can knit some mittens, a head warmer, or teeny tiny socks.

Gardens are increasingly being explored as a means to promote health and well-being, especially during the pandemic.

A recent study showed that garden-based activities may help youth improve their sense of well-being, resiliency, and belonging.

A 2016 study explored the positive health behaviors elicited through gardening, while another study found that viewing plants can reduce stress, fear, anger, and sadness.

You can do a mini, gift-worthy version of gardening by making a DIY terrarium. Then pop a bow on it for a great holiday present.

You can buy a kit online to get you started.

As a plus, you’ll be gifting more than just aesthetics. Research shows that plants in your space can increase productivity, and the leaves of the plant help to remove toxins, dust, and microorganisms from the air.

Plants may even help you get better sleep.

They make a great gift for anyone who’s working from home or has just moved into a new space and could use some greenery to brighten it up.

Various research has shown that music therapy can reduce anxiety, calm neural activity in the brain, and help to restore emotional balance.

A 2019 study on graduate students found that music could improve mood by lowering levels of depression.

If you’re gifted on the guitar, keyboard, or any other instrument, spend an afternoon or two tinkering away on a tune for a DIY present like no other.

This is a great gift for a partner. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be serenaded with a personalized melody composed by their one and only?

Alternatively, you can write a comedy song about the whole family for an after-dinner collective surprise gift. You can even share it over video chat for a quarantine-friendly treat.

Try threading away at an embroidery or cross stitch project.

An older qualitative study from 2000 suggested that embroidery provides a sense of autonomy and creativity, stimulates pride and increased sense of self-worth, and helps with tranquility amid stressful life events.

Newer research also lists embroidery as a crafting skill that can improve health and well-being.

There are plenty of embroidery starter kits to get you going, like this Christmas-themed 3 pack.

The Emma Broidery’s Embroidery Stitch Tool is another great resource for learning the ins and outs of basic embroidery.

Embroidery and cross stitch is trending on Instagram these days, making a stitching kit the perfect gift for any millennials in the family.

Junebug and Darlin offers cross stitch kits with visuals and sayings infused with queer pride. Badass Cross Stitch is another great option, with political, feminist, and just plain funny quotes and patterns.

You can also get creative and create your own pattern, embroidering a favorite flower for your mom, a special quote for your sister, a snowman for your granddad, or a sassy remark for your best friend.

Arts and crafts have been linked to various mental health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety and improving overall well-being.

With that in mind, DIY holiday gifts are a great way to give something special to a loved one while boosting your mood in the process.


Marnie Vinall is a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Australia. She’s written extensively for a range of publications covering everything from politics and mental health to nostalgic sandwiches and the state of her own vagina. You can reach Marnie via Twitter, Instagram, or her website.