Knit one, purl one. Knit one, purl one. Stitch, wrap the needle, pull it through, French knot. Stitch, wrap the needle, pull it through, French knot. Yarn over, through the stitch, pull through the loops. Yarn over, through the stitch, pull through the loops.
Repetitive motions are the backbone of most crafting experiences. Knitting, stitching, crochet, and many others teach a basic stitch, and using that stitch or group of stitches, create useful art. It has been this way for generations, but our current society has a different use for meditative stitching – anxiety relief.
Why Does Crafting Help with Anxiety?
Several studies have been done that show the restorative properties of repetitive motion, and crafting supplies both the repetitive and meditative rhythm, and encourages the mind to distract itself from rumination. Learning a new skill is one of the best systems to mitigate anxiety and depression, and mastering that skill provides a sense of accomplishment.
Mindful crafting is rapidly emerging as a home therapy, and mastering the precise movements of completing a craft both encourages the individual to learn, but also causes conscious movement. An online study by Betsan Corkhill found that crafters who engaged in their activity more than 3 times per week were more relaxed, happier, less anxious, and more confident.
The levels of anxiety and depression in our very wealthy modern world are a fairly new concept on such a large scale. Many people aren’t comfortable talking about what’s going on in their head or are unable to voice their experience with a therapist due to cost or availability.
Crafting is a fairly inexpensive way to mitigate some of that anxiety and depression while encouraging active creativity, satisfaction, and meditative space.
Why Can’t I Just Meditate?
You can! However, many people (myself included!) find that the pressure to meditate and clear one’s mind of outside thoughts results in even MORE negativity. I start thinking things like, “Gosh, I can’t even meditate right…” That’s not helpful.
Crafting produces similar concentration effects in the brain as yoga and allows your mind to focus on a task while not specifically trying to clear it of the clutter. It naturally happens as you begin to be absorbed in learning or making. The repetitive motions of an experienced crafter leave behind the learning element and create a safe rhythm of familiarity, much as jogging or running does for those who can do that.
For some, regular meditation practice is a very helpful way to mitigate their anxiety and depression. For others, having a focused task can allow for similar results, but without the pressure of being unable to shut one’s mind off.
A neuroscientist, Sarah McKay, writes about how to maximize mindfulness in crafting. She also notes the benefits of crafting include memory formation and retrieval, and increased dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and patience. Not a bad set of benefits!
Any Ideas on New Ways to Meditate?
OH GOSH YES!
Wait, was that too excited? I use the term “panic crafting” in my life. Whenever I feel stressed, I go try to find some new, often obscure method of crafting, and practice it. As a result, I have TONS of ideas on where you can start. For something easy and beautiful, try Sashiko embroidery. For something a little more challenging, try needle lace.
You can start with an “everything included” kit to knit or embroider, or you can pick up something at the store and just go at it on your own. The practice is the important thing – remember that you probably won’t create an heirloom on your first try.
However, you might be able to stitch shut a torn pair of jeans, knit a pair of fingerless mitts, or create some usable dishcloths!
Everything that you are able to do will become a story of your victories. A dishcloth will remind you of that time you made it through a really bad day at work with flying colors. A patched pair of jeans might tell the story of triumph over family anxiety.
Everything in our lives can tell stories, and we can learn from, and celebrate our victories. Let your victories be crafted into positive reminders of your strength!
What Do I Do With My Finished Products?
Use them! One of my favorite panic crafting results is a dishcloth. It is easy to make, takes about an hour, and by the time I’m done, I’ve calmed down quite a bit. I also am left with something useable.
This is why I also encourage people to try Sashiko embroidery. It’s easy, beautiful, and useful. Finding a way to turn anxiety into something you can either use yourself or gift to someone ( I promise, if you start giving away crocheted washcloths, people will come find you for more!) creates a wonderful positive out of a culturally negative emotion.
We in the West experience so much pressure and anxiety around success and consumption, that to give a handmade gift to someone is so immensely special. Even to look at something you have completed with pride is helpful.
Meditation, Anxiety, and Wellness
Wellness is a catchphrase in society now, and one to be cautious of. You can hear wellness tips and tricks from all sorts of sources. Keep in mind that the persons most qualified to help you define your own wellness are your doctor and your therapist.
Before you start any wellness programs, talk to them about your needs, your goals, and healthy ways to reach them. Anything can become unhealthy if it is taken to extremes, and our lives are all about balance.
Creating art is one way of tackling our day to day struggles with anxiety, but there are many more.
Try a craft like stitching, knitting, and crochet. Give it some time to become a safe place for your mind to retreat in rhythm and safety, but don’t replace therapy and healthy habits with yarn and thread.
Let me know in the comments below how crafting helps you manage your anxiety, depression, or maintain wellness! I love to learn from all of you, and often find ways to manage my own anxiety that I hadn’t thought of. We are all in this together!