Anxiety has become part of everyday life for many. If we turn on the TV or scroll through Facebook these days, we are bombarded with words and pictures that can cause fear and worry. Daily life in today’s society is filled with moments of high state anxiety. It seems that every day there is something that happens in the world that is terrifying and ultimately can be overwhelming to process. Our overall feelings of safety are shaken and well-being is diminished.
Do you have stress? I bet you do. Most people have some level of stress. Do you like to craft, paint, sew, or make music? I do. In regards to stress, I deal with stress everyday. Stress over family issues, business, money, and the dreaded upcoming Minnesota winter! Lately, I have found myself doing a lot more sewing than I had been in the past few years. Unfortunately, I had stopped sewing for a number of years despite how much it was part of my life. It happened because back in 1999, when I decided to go back to college to get a degree, I made the decision based on my two talents, sewing and music (violin player). My music influence started when I was 10 years old in the public school system, and continued on until graduation. I played the violin occasionally over the next ten years before going back to college. My sewing influence came from my mom and the sewing/vacuum store my parents operated. I used to sew all of my girls clothes, and anything else I needed.
I checked into the degree, and I was SOLD! I never looked back. However, sewing was always there for me. As I started college, I made the mistake of selling my sewing machines as I thought that I wouldn’t have time with all the demands of college and running a family. After a few years, I started sewing again.
Now, another ten years later, I am sewing a lot more. Especially with the creation of the Guitten. I am finding myself thinking about other sewing projects that I could do. When I shop for clothes, I find myself thinking, “I could just sew that for less money, and I could make it exactly how I want it.” It makes me feel good to be creative, and I love brainstorming new ideas.
This creative thinking and doing is actually healthy for anyone. With all my busy-ness with my business and family, I have been sewing more, and realizing how relaxing it is to my well-being. It’s really good to be in the moment with any task, but with sewing you have to be completely mindful of what you are doing. Multi-tasking is not an option.
Did you know that creative expression helps you to relax, reflect, distract your mind, and relieve stress. I love to be creative in many ways. One way is sewing. I also like to collage, resurface furniture, and remodel areas of my home. When I sew, I can’t multi-task. I must devote all of my attention to the project. Sewing requires you to be in the moment. I have found that sewing helps me to slow down. I love the creativity of designing the product that I plan on creating. I start by putting on my “Happy” iTunes playlist while I sew. For me, playing music while I create adds to the therapeutic benefits of creative expression.
Research has found that crafting activities involves many areas of your brain. It works your memory, attention span, visuospatial processing, creative side and problem-solving abilities. Whether you draw, paint, craft, quilt, sew, or chainsaw wood into beautiful works of art, crafting has been found to have physical, psychological and spiritual benefits. Gail McMeekin, MSW, a career coach in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, and the author of the books “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women,” said “Crafts are a way of valuing yourself and giving to yourself. They allow you to express what’s inside.”
Professionals in the creative arts such as music and art therapy use these and other unique forms of expression to communicate, and release tension. In working with elementary children and teens, I often use collaborate with a fellow therapist, Nikki, on using art in our music therapy groups.
Not only can crafting ease stress, increase happiness, but it could protect the brain from damage caused by aging. According to CNN, “Neuroscientists are beginning to see how studies on cognitive activities such as doing crossword puzzles might also apply to someone who does complex quilting patterns.” Scientists are studying these type of activities. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry reported that you could reduce your chances of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30%-50%.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmigalyi first described this phenomenon as flow: a few moments in time when you are so completely absorbed by an activity that nothing else seems to matter. “Flow” can dampen and calm internal chaos. It’s like a natural anti-depressant.
I certainly like that data. It’s motivating for me and encourages me to KEEP ON being creative. So, for all of YOU, get that project out of the box that you’ve been procrastinating! Turn on the tunes, complete it, create more, and you could be contributing to your own health!
Lewis, R. (2011). Engaging in cognitive activities, aging, and mild cognitive impairment: a population-based study. Journal of Neuropsychiatry.
McMeekin, G. (2011). The 12 secrets of highly creative women.Conari Press; 10th Anniversary Edition edition.