It turns out that knitting and crochet really do make you happier
Living in a fast-paced environment can quickly become overwhelming and many of us seek out ways to step back from it all and de-stress. There’s a plethora of physical benefits that come from crafting, but the positive effect it has on your mind might be even bigger.
You will have heard the term ‘mindfulness’ everywhere, but how can you get involved in the practice? It seems crafting could be the answer. With fast-paced jobs and busy schedules, it’s always been important that we take time for ourselves. Some sit down in front of the television, others dive into a book, but with crafting you have to be completely invested in what you’re making which can really help you to focus on the here and now.
The act of crafting increases the release of dopamine which is a natural antidepressant, and it also heightens happiness and protects the brain from the damage that can be caused by ageing. Over the years neuroscientists have been beginning to see how studies on cognitive activities such as doing crossword puzzles might also apply to someone who works on complex quilting patterns.
Have you ever lost yourself in a task and cleared your mind from everything? This is essentially mindfulness and you’ve probably been practising it for years without realising – one of the best ways to achieve it is through craft. “If you’re currently thinking that crafting is the furthest thing from calm, don’t panic,” says Let’s Get Crafting Deputy Editor, Jessica Elkin. “Forget the idea that everything has to be perfect – it’s the process that’s the important bit for your mental health, not the outcome.”
“A knitted or crocheted blanket is a great starting point to help you practise mindfulness and produce something beautiful. Once you’ve learnt the basics, add a little bit to it every day or week and pick a colour that represents your mood at the time – there’s no wrong way to do it,” adds Jessica. If you’re a beginner you could get involved in a crochet-along. Crafters join in remotely and download a section of a pattern a bit at a time – it helps to create a great sense of community and allows you to work in bite-size pieces. Find hundreds of free projects to start you off at topcrochetpatterns.com.
Most things can be done mindfully by making a conscious effort to notice the detail in the moment. When you are focussing on the present there is no past or future to worry about, which can help to ease anxiety problems. Betsan Corkhill, founder of Stitchlinks and author of Knit for Health and Wellness, says we’re accepting that traditional medicine doesn’t have a fix for most long-term conditions, and that medication isn’t always the answer. “Research has shown changes in brain structure as a result of mindfulness practice, so we have real, persuasive evidence of its benefits. People are more open to trying mindfulness as an alternative as they realise that it doesn’t need to have spiritual connotations, as it did traditionally. Crafting is a good introduction to the practice as thinking about the process, textures and colours involved can make it much easier to learn how to be mindful, especially for beginners. The two-handed, cross-body, rhythmic movements of knitting and crochet make it easier to enter a meditative-like state.”
Use crafting as therapy any time, anywhere – in the middle of the night, on a bus, even in bed.