Finding Peace, Mindfulness, and Flow in the Crochet of Life
Studies have shown that craft exercises such as crochet can help improve your mental health. We find out more on why this works.
Our 21st century lifestyles often leave much to be desired. Dominated by instant messaging, depressing daily broadcasts and the never-ending demands of work and family (complicated even more recently by the pandemic), there are sometimes few intervals of time when we can truly relax. On top of that, those rare moments when we finally have nothing to do can be just as anxiety-producing as when we were stressed and over-busy.
A number of recent studies have revealed that handcrafts, such as crochet, have extraordinary health and wellbeing benefits apart from the enjoyment of creating something. Perhaps this is something our grandmothers knew deep down, but didn’t think to tell us. This could be one of the reasons, as well as the extra home-time the pandemic has created for some, many people (including the young) have taken them up as pastimes.
Mindfulness is a meditative-like state where you are awake and fully aware in the present moment. There are various ways of achieving mindfulness including walking in nature or writing in a daily journal. However, crochet offers the addition of the rhythmical action of the stitches to keep you in the moment and end up with a satisfying result. The practise of mindfulness has become an important part of treatment for anxiety, depression and PTSD by many psychologists.
In her 2014 book, Crochet Saved My Life, Kathryn Vercillo describes how turning to crochet took her out of an incapacitating period of depression. In her Introduction, she describes how: “I couldn’t do almost anything and yet the one thing I could do was to move a crochet hook back and forth through yarn … creating fabric out of thin air so I could breathe in it.”
Most people are not necessarily coming to crochet from such a dire place in their lives, however, many do find that the intrinsic benefits of raised serotonin levels (the feel-good hormone) and reduced cortisol levels (the hormone that can mess with your immune system) very helpful to get through their days. Some people also find that a daily session of crochet can even improve sleep and be an enjoyable distraction from chronic pain.
The concept of ‘flow’ was first developed by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihlyi during the 1980s. Akin to mindfulness, flow is also a meditative-like state but there are some significant differences. While mindfulness can be obtained through a stillness practise, flow requires the wholehearted engagement in a meaningful task or activity. As well as that, flow also requires that the activity has a clear objective and purpose, provides immediate feedback and requires a skill to be utilised and progressed. So, it’s important that the activity offers new challenges along the way to maintain the flow. For example, learning new stitches or trying out a more complex pattern. Given these requirements, crochet certainly fits the bill!
Time can seem suspended during a flow state when disturbing things that might normally concern you seem to melt away and all that matters is the dedication to the craft. And if the activity is also enjoyable, it can enhance mood by with the addition of feelings of ecstasy, motivation and fulfilment.
Process or product?
It’s usually suggested that the beneficial wellness effects of a meditative-like state like mindfulness or flow created by any activity are experienced during the process, not by the end result. However, with crafts such as crochet, producing a physical item can also give rewards. Holding that newly created piece, whatever it is, in your hands once completed, can facilitate feelings of confidence that can cross over into
other areas of your life.
So … what are you waiting for? When you have finished reading over all of the inspiring projects and articles in this magazine, pick up your hook and a skein of your favourite yarn and go with the flow. It’s not just fun, it’s good for you!
To start with, a regular dose of crochet can, in fact:
1. Keep your hands supple and flexible, which can ward off debilitating conditions such as arthritis and Dupuytren’s contracture of the hand and fingers.
2. Keep your hands busy, which can reduce anxiety and give your mind a rest as you simply concentrate on the stitches and pattern.
3. Keep your brain sharp, as crafts such as crochet require multiple parts of the brain and hand-eye coordination to work together.