Would a stitch a day keep the black dog away?
Possibly. The craft-conscious among us already know how much a creative hobby can calm us, help us cope with challenging situations, relieve anxiety and boost our mood but to anybody who doesn't- you might want to try it. Some of us cannot put our projects down! They come with us everywhere. The joy we get from creating is too good to pass up and we enthusiastically encourage everyone we can to try some crafts too. We're not just zealots or in some kind of craft cult. It's just good stuff.
Mental health is health. Hobbies are for your mind what exercise and diet is for your body.
Hobbies relieve stress but don't just take my word for it.
Craft can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, loneliness and even dementia, according to research.- Craft Council
Craft can do so much for you. Drawing, scribbling, scrunching, painting, weaving, knitting; it all counts. Craft gives you something that 4 hours of passively watching something on Netflix cannot- mindfulness. When you pick up some knitting needles for example and really start focusing on what you're doing, you're present, you're actively in the moment. Making is a really effective way to give your brain a rest whilst still using it. When you're counting stitches, you're not thinking about work. When you're choosing yarn colours, you're not thinking about stressful situations. You're just thinking about your project.
Spending time on an activity that you enjoy can improve your mental health and wellbeing. In fact, people with hobbies may be less likely to experience stress, low mood, and depression. - Head2health.gov
Knitting and crochet won't cure your mental health problems but they could really help.
Please don't think for a second that I'm saying taking up a crafty hobby will cure all of your problems. It absolutely will not. What it will do though, is help you to deal with them. You won't get any toxic positivity here. I'm just sharing my story of how a creative hobby helped me.
Hobbies for when you have a stressful, thankless job.
When I worked as a teacher, there didn't seem to be many of us who had hobbies and if you ever talked about it you'd be shut down with "If only I had the time". My boss loved making granny squares though. She was very pro-craft. We worked in quite an awful, stifling organisation that really did not care if you sank or swam so it was vital to do something in your free time that would keep you from really thinking too much about it. I believe it kept me from developing depression for a good while but if the triggers aren't dealt with, depression will come. You can only pom pom your way away from the black dog for so long.
I encountered depression for the first time in my adult life working in that place.
I encountered depression for the first time in my adult life working in that place. I probably managed to cope for as long as I did because I had creative hobbies. When I got home, that was my time. I would knit something, crochet something, paint or sew. I even liked batch cooking as a way to de-stress! Absolutely anything that kept my hands busy was welcome.
That was until the depression came... I was too far gone to find solace in my crafts.
That was until the depression came. Once I'd finally been broken, I'd go home and just sit there for hours, struck by the inability to do anything. I wanted to do something but at the same time I didn't. I was too far gone to find solace in my crafts.
I'd go to bed and worry about work. I'd wake up and worry about work. I had road rage on my commute, The slightest inconvenience on the road would set me off. I'd pull up at work and cry in the car for ten minutes. I hated my life and what had happened to it. I knew I had to quit but I was too scared of the 'what if's hanging over me.
With the support of my husband and my then boss, I managed to leave that job and find something else, thus alleviating the depression and what do you know? I was enthusiastically crafting again!
Years later, depression came back to bite me. This time, it wasn't just work related. It was 2020 (ring any bells?) and we were in our second month of not seeing anybody, doing anything or going anywhere. I had a toddler and a new baby and my husband who usually had a place of work to go to, was trapped at home with us doing most of his admin in the car. Sure, I could have broken the rules but they were the rules and the entire UK was told to follow them, so in good faith, we did. We could only go outside for one exercise session a day, so I didn't think I could justify going out by myself if I also had two little ones and a dog who would have benefited from also going out. I started to sink.
I was on maternity leave but was constantly worrying about how I was going to find childcare and whether I'd even have a job to go back to. Nobody knew anything.
It was another month or so that I realised I needed help. I called the GP and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
I took the antidepressants offered to me. They immediately helped. They silenced the noise in my head but I still believe that the reason I had managed to cope for so long was because I wouldn't put my needles down. I was always doing something, even if it was never going to be a finished project. I wouldn't say it brought me joy because nothing really did during that spring and summer, but it was a positive habit. It helped me to identify the triggers. It helped me to stay calm and really think about what I could do to make myself feel better.
Depression is not as simple as just feeling sad and crying all the time.
Depression is not as simple as just feeling sad and crying all the time. It's when you are not yourself for weeks or months. The things that once brought you joy no longer give you that feeling. You can be angry, irrational, dead inside or just not interested in anyone or anything. Never feel silly or that you're "not depressed enough" to see a doctor or talk to someone. The earlier you get in touch, the sooner you can get help.
Also, you don't have to suffer from a mental illness to enjoy craft.
I thought I'd just end with that in case you felt this was an exclusive thing.
Do you use creative hobbies as a way of keeping your mind healthy?