From slow sewing to paper cutting, we explore the wonderful world of mindful crafts and how they benefit our mental health
Many of us know by now that mindfulness is a pretty wonderful thing. It can reduce stress and anxiety, and generally help us to maintain our mental wellness.
Mindfulness meditation is often hailed as the ultimate mindfulness practice. But the brilliant thing about mindfulness is that it can be tapped into in so many ways. One creative idea is to take regular crafting activities and give them a mindfulness spin by slowing down, and letting the activity absorb your attention.
Counsellor Bethyn Casey incorporates creative therapy into her work, and believes crafting can be ideal for those looking for a different approach to mindfulness.
“There is something outside of yourself to focus on – trying to sit and meditate when our thoughts are rushing can be just what we need, and I would never discourage mindfulness meditation, but sometimes a meditative state is hard to achieve and a busy mind can be frustrated further by the struggle to relax on its own accord.
“Playing with colours, symbols and shapes can be absorbing, our attention focused on something else, but ideally pressure-free, and so we may more naturally relax into a mindful way of being.”
But the actual benefits go beyond this. Research from the British Journal of Occupational Therapy suggests doing crafting activities on a regular basis can improve mood and increase feelings of relaxation. And Bethyn notes that being creative in this way can ultimately help us access difficult emotions, too.
“By crafting, we’re just letting images, shapes, colours, and our intuition, lead us in different directions. Somehow the fun of the objects themselves can mean we drift out of boxed thinking and discover that something within us can quietly rearrange things in the background.
“Suddenly we’ve put our tools away, and whatever it was that was stuck and knotted and inaccessible inside has somehow formed itself into something tangible that can be touched and explored.”
Sometimes, focusing on something external can help us internally. If this sounds like something you’re keen to try, we’ve got some suggested mindful crafting activities for you – get your tools at the ready.
Paper cutting involves making intricate designs using a craft knife and, traditionally, just one sheet of paper. The entire process of paper cutting, from designing to cutting, takes extreme focus and care, making it an ideal mindful craft. When cutting, try to focus your attention on what you’re doing and take it slowly.
You might want to attend a class or follow online tutorials to get started. Once you feel happy with the technique, all you need is a template, a craft knife, and a piece of paper – simple!
Never underestimate the power of a box full of craft toys; they can open up a whole different world inside our own minds
Macramé is a type of textile made using knotting techniques. You can use any materials that can be knotted, such as cotton, twine, yarn, or even leather, to create a beautiful wall hanging or plant holder. The activity is both challenging to the mind (some of the knots can be intricate), and relaxing as there are often repetitive actions needed. This combination can trigger a flow state, where you feel relaxed and as if time is standing still.
Cutting and sticking in this way can feel incredibly therapeutic, and it turns out there’s a reason for this, as Bethyn explains.
“We can discover things about ourselves we didn’t know – when collaging, we’re drawn to certain types of images, shapes, and colours that resonate with different meanings for us. By playing about with them, and rearranging what goes where, new ways of seeing old patterns appear; suddenly the world isn’t a lonely place; we are our own friend, gradually discovering new ways of relating to the world around us as we continue to practise our craft.”
As a bonus, you get to keep your scrapbook after you’re done! Pick a theme or simply let your intuition guide you!
Instead of reaching for the sewing machine, slow sewing is all about stitching a project by hand. The gentle, focused nature of hand sewing makes it a perfect mindfulness activity. It can also be nice to try alongside other people, especially if you struggle with social anxiety.
“Having crafting to focus on means the excess energy anxiety brings can go into what we’re creating, rather than building up within. Sometimes being able to share a craft activity together quietly, without the normal social pressures of having to make conversation, can be in itself socially fulfilling,” Bethyn says.
If you’re new to sewing, why not reach out to see if anyone would be willing to help you learn and form a slow sewing group? You might make some friends while developing a new skill.
We know carving out time for yourself can be difficult, especially when the demands of work and family seem to be tugging at your sleeve. Having a dedicated activity to turn to can not only help you prioritise ‘you time’ (and make you excited about it), it can help you switch off from modern-day stressors (yes, we’re looking at you Twitter).
As Bethyn says: “Never underestimate the power of a box full of craft toys; they can open up a whole different world inside our own minds; it’s a world where we get to make choices about how we shape our creations, and this can help us begin to make choices about how we want to craft our own lives.”
So, whether you’re a crafting newbie looking to try something different, or a dab hand with a craft knife, you officially have permission to get creative more often. Trust us, your mind will thank you for it.