Last week, we explored the benefits of crafting during times of stress - like a global pandemic! - as well as how the process of crafting is akin to meditation and can lead to improved mental health. This week we’re looking at how those cognitive benefits translate to our emotions and feelings!
We makers already know that our fiber arts are enjoyable and participating in our hobbies makes us feel happy, but science has shown it goes deeper than that. Crafting can actually build emotional stability and here’s why:
Concentration: Knitting, crochet and the other fiber arts require us to pay attention to what we’re doing, keeping the brain occupied and making it difficult for negative thoughts and feelings to take over.
Serotonin: Described as the pleasure hormone, serotonin is released in our bodies while we’re crafting and acts as a natural antidepressant.
Endorphins: Similar to serotonin, the act of crafting increases our endorphin levels. This encourages feelings similar to that of eating a piece of chocolate, listening to music or finishing a good run or other exercise.
Dopamine: As we’re crafting, we’re improving a skill and boosting self esteem through rewarding work. We are also seeing progress as we create something tangible which fosters a positive feeling of productivity. These combine into a sense of pride in accomplished work which triggers a dopamine response that generates a sensation of happiness or pleasure.
Resilience: Perhaps not entirely backed by scientific study, most makers could probably attest that making mistakes is part of the crafting process. Recognizing errors, going back and taking out work, doing a section over (maybe two or three times) - it all requires an emotional acceptance and resilience not always found or even available through other activities.
Because of these qualities, the fiber arts are moving out of the “old fashioned hobby” stigma and are working their way into therapy for various health concerns. The Craft Yarn Council shares: “Psychiatrist Teresa Anderson, who practices in Cincinnati, Ohio, recommends knitting and crochet to patients suffering from PTSD, anxiety and major depression. A knitter and crocheter herself, she’s been urging patients to stitch since medical school. ‘People recommend meditation, which is nice in theory, but some people are so worked up they can’t sit still long enough to meditate,’ she says. ‘Knitting is what I consider an active meditation, something you can do and focus on, but it has a repetitive quality to it.’”
Depending on your emotional needs, focusing on different aspects of the craft can enhance the benefits you’re seeking. For example, if you’re specifically crafting for the purpose of increasing happiness, pick a yarn that feels good in your hands while you’re working with it. Betsan Corkhill, a trained physiotherapist and personal well-being coach, surveyed 3,500 knitters, and one of her findings was that the texture of the yarn was twice as important as color in regards to improving one’s mood. If, on the other hand, you are looking to reduce anxiety or stress, be selective with the pattern you choose and maybe don’t pick the intricate lace shawl with seven different full-page charts! Try a project with a repetitive stitch pattern or sections of basic texture you can lose yourself in.
Even beyond all of the items listed above, there are many more anecdotal ways that crafting improves our emotional health. Here are a few:
Digital Detox: Crafting is a practical method for setting down the phone, turning off the laptop and taking a break from screens. (Ok, maybe your pattern is digital, but you know what we mean!) Social media can be emotionally overwhelming in and of itself, but technology as a whole tends to have us reading about or viewing experiences, rather than living them. Crafting centers, grounds and brings us back to participating in reality.
Me Time: Maintaining time for individual pursuits is important for emotional and mental health. Choosing to craft means taking control of our time to do a leisurely activity. This power of choice is a freedom, and the art is steered only by our creative preferences allow for full, creative self-expression!
Friendships: Whether it’s online or gathering in person (when safe to do so!), the fiber arts are a great avenue for meeting people, expanding our social circle and building relationships. (Watch for more on this topic later this month!)
Our emotions hold a lot of power over our general well-being. The next time you pick up your craft project, take a moment to assess how you’re feeling, and then let yourself embrace the time you spend on your art. Chances are, when you wrap up for the day, your head and heart will feel freer and lighter than when you started!
Sometimes a single craft session may not be enough, however. Later this week we will reflect heartfully on how crafting has the ability to help us navigate grief. Also, if the awareness exercise described above resonated with you, be on the lookout for more along those lines in the coming weeks!Sources:
The Benefits of Knitting for Personal and Social Wellbeing in Adulthood: Findings from an International Survey
Crochet Cupconscience - How Crochet Heals People
Buzzfeed: Knitting Myself Back Together
Huffington Post: Knitting Could Be Your Solution To Anxiety And Better Health
Crafty Yarn Council