When circumstances change in our lives (hello 2020, I’m looking at you!), it’s important to come up with new ways to look after our mental health.
As this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, I’ll talk about one possible self-care practice close to my heart: crafting, and more specifically, crochet.
Whatever the craft involved, making something engages both your brain and your hands. This has been recognised as being greatly beneficial for mental and physical health, keeping anxiety and stress at bay, as well as lowering blood pressure.
The two phases of crafting
Initially, learning crochet (or any other craft) requires a lot of concentration. You’re not just creating a thing with your hands; you’re also creating millions of new neuron connections in your brain.
When you’re focused on learning something new, that requires all of your brainpower, there is no space left in your head for negative thoughts, fear or anxiety.
Then, when you’re a bit more confident with this newly acquired skill and you immerse yourself in it, you are likely to find yourself in what is called a state of flow.
This means, again, that you’re so focused on what you’re creating and enjoying the activity in itself so much, that there’s no room for anything else in your brain. It’s like a little escape, without leaving your chair.
Even your perception of time may be altered, and a couple of hours may pass in what seemed to you like the blink of an eye. But then you see the item you’ve been making, the tangible result of your activity, you have an actual object to show for your efforts, and that in itself is very rewarding. You can say “I made this!” and feel pride in your achievement. That’s quite a big self-esteem booster!
What’s not to like about that?!?
On the other end of the spectrum, crochet can also provide a deliciously mindless activity – because sometimes, nothing else will do!
Extremely easy, repetitive crochet patterns, for example if you’re making a blanket using just the same stitch over and over and over, can be a satisfyingly mindless activity.
Repetitive crochet patterns like these require very little concentration, but keeps your hands busy, so you can be doing something else at the same time, like watching television, listening to an audiobook or a podcast, or even having a conversation with somebody in your household or on Zoom. Some people have also found crochet a helpful way to keep their hands from reaching for the biscuit jar or for another cigarette.
Crochet = a delight for the senses
I think I love crochet so much because it is an extraordinarily sensory experience. The crochet hooks that I buy tend to be aluminium sets, each hook size in a different colour. It’s like a pretty rainbow of hooky tools. They’re very smooth and just very nice to have in your hand.
But of course, the star of the show is the yarn – the softer, the better. If you feel you need a bit of a mood boost, using bright colours, especially some nice sunshine yellow, does wonders. If you need to calm down, going for pale blues or even shades of grey are sure to help.
And if you decide to opt for natural animal fibres, especially for sheep’s wool that has NOT been superwash treated, but just washed, spun, and dyed, then you’re also in for an olfactory treat. There’s nothing quite like the smell of sheep’s wool!
Will you take up crochet?
I hope I’ve convinced you that crafting in general, and crochet in particular, is good for you!
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This post is adapted from a guest blog post I wrote recently for the Simon Constantinou hair salon blog.