We live in a world which seems to come with more stress - and distress - than ever before. Can making soap really help?
Short answer? Sure!
There are so many benefits to making your own soap. First, your skin will thank you for providing it with a gorgeous, nourishing bar of soap free from harmful chemicals and artificial fragrances.
You get the immense sense of achievement from making something from scratch. It's your "baby", you created this soap from a mishmash of ingredients, you added your own unique flare of creativity in the shape of essential oils, natural micas and botanicals, and you saw it through to completion.
You get to gift your creations to your friends and family - not only are you doing their skin a favour but they'll be super impressed. After all, making soap is not something everyone can do. The most common response to proudly telling someone you made the soap they just enjoyed in your bathroom is outright disbelief!
And, yes, there are benefits to your mental health as well...
Soapmaking allows you to switch off from the outside world
Fancy dropping molten soap batter all over your new smartphone? Then you'd better keep it well away from the soap station!
Most of us are near enough surgically attached to our devices these days, if we're not scrolling through social media feeds we're picking up emails from our bosses even though it's 8.30am on a Sunday.
While technology is an amazing tool there's no doubt the feeling of being permanently "on" can lead to increased stress. It plays havoc with our sleep as well, meaning we don't feel rested when we wake up, so we start each day on the back foot.
Soapmaking requires you put down your device, step away from the smartphone and be fully present. If you're not really in the moment while you're pouring hot oils then, well, you're just asking for trouble.
Learning a new skill helps slow down your brain's ageing
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford
Henry Ford wasn't just speaking metaphorically, science has backed him up. Doctors from Harvard found that learning new things, even into late adulthood, stimulates brain cell growth.
What you're learning isn't important, what matters is that you pick something you can engage with, that you focus on it, and that you see it through.
So whether you fancy trying a new language, taking up an instrument or, yes, learning how to make soap, your brain will thank you.
Flex your creative muscles
The wonderful thing about creativity is that there are no limits.
When you make something it doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't have to look like everyone else's, you don't even have to show it to anyone if you don't want to. It's yours, you made it, and that's all that matters.
Humans have been flexing their creative muscles for over 40,000 years - it's in our blood. So you're in good company!
Healing from trauma, and physical and mental health difficulties
A 2010 study found that artistic expression does improve outcomes for both physical and psychological health concerns.
The authors of the study found that creativity helped with the mental well being of people with such diverse conditions as heart disease, cancer, fibromyalgia and HIV, as well as survivors of abuse and childhood trauma.
But you don't have to be struggling to that extent to reap the benefits. Most of us could do with the chance to take some time for ourselves and do something we really enjoy.