Welcome to HuffPost Canada’s guide to helping you pick up an easy, everyday ritual that can make your life a bit better, in a small but significant way.
Canadians are stressed out, anxious, and are feeling disconnected from each other. Once a week, we’ll share a tiny tip to help you feel good. We’ve got your back.
Get sewing (or stitching) while you’re self-isolating.
What it is
Wherever you happen to be in the world, you’ve probably been social distancing for at least a week, and learning how to self-isolate (For the love of all that is holy, stay home!).
Being in isolation is hard, to put it mildly. As someone who is used to going into an office five days a week, having to all of a sudden be contained by the walls of my home (with a toddler, no less), and not see friends and family is a bit more than I can bear. But we must!
So, I’ve turned to a hobby I discovered while I was on parental leave (which is its own version of self-isolation, just with more spit-up and many nightly wake-ups): sewing, cross-stitching, and embroidery.
Any kind of crafting will help you forget (for at least a few minutes, I swear) that we’re hunkering down while a pandemic rages on around us.
For whenever you’re feeling ...
My city, Toronto, has just started week two of self-distancing and self-isolation measures, and I’ve noticed that I’ve been crafting more than ever, even though I have less time and energy.
I’d recommend crafting to anyone who needs a mental-health boost, who wants to get away from the news and off social media, and who needs a new hobby now that they’re stuck indoors.
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How it can help
“There’s promising evidence coming out to support what a lot of crafters have known anecdotally for quite some time,” Catherine Carey Levisay, a clinical neuropsychologist, told CNN.com. “And that’s that creating — whether it be through art, music, cooking, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography (or) cake decorating — is beneficial to us in a number of important ways.”
Some of the benefits of crafting include stress reduction; a way to regulate strong emotions such as anger; self-efficacy improvement; and a reduction in your chances of developing mild cognitive impairment, among others.
Here are the ways crafting helps me during self-isolation:
It helps take my mind off the terrible headlines
My job requires me to be around headlines about the COVID-19 pandemic all day, and, suffice to say, my mental health has seen better days.
When I sit down to work on my latest cross-stitch, sewing, or embroidery project, all that stress and anxiety brought on by the headlines goes away. And that probably has something to do with dopamine, the neurotransmitter in our brain that, among other things, affects our mood and how we process pain.
Dopamine is released by the reward centre in our brain when we do something pleasurable, like sewing — or any kind of hobby — which is why when we’re doing these things, we feel good and we want to keep doing them.
WATCH: How to take care of your mental health during the pandemic. Story continues below.
“Dopamine, in and of itself, is our natural anti-depressant,” Levisay said. “Any time we can find a non-medicinal way to stimulate that reward centre ... the better off we’re going to be.”
In a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81 per cent of the 3,545 participants, all of whom were knitters, said they felt happier after knitting and more than half reported feeling “very happy.”
Researchers concluded, “knitting has significant psychological and social benefits, which can contribute to wellbeing and quality of life.”
A 2016 study which looked at how creative activities affect a person’s well-being found that people who do something creative every day cultivates “positive psychological functioning.”
It helps me focus
The crafts I enjoy — sewing, cross-stitch, and embroidery — don’t take up much physical energy, but the one thing they do require is intense concentration and focus.
If I take my eyes away from the needle while I’m sewing pants for my son, I’ll most likely end up with a crooked stitch that I’ll have to re-sew.
If I’m not paying close attention to what I’m doing when I’m cross-stitching, I can end up with tangled thread, a crooked stitch, or a miscalculation that forces me to undo a huge part of my project.
This singular focus forces me to live in the moment, which distracts me from thinking about the future.
It helps me see the beauty in this world
It’s hard to see the light in the situation we’re in, but crafting has given me tiny sparks of beauty.
Creating something by hand, whether it’s a pink romper for my son, a constellation cross-stitch for my grandma, or a winter cardinal embroidery for myself, gives me small pleasures. Knowing that I made something beautiful is enough, in the moment. And a pandemic can’t take that away from me.
How to start
Depending on what you’re interested in doing (maybe it’s knitting, crocheting, quilting, painting, drawing, tapestry weaving, home decorating), there are many how-to videos for beginners as well as dedicated channels for one particular skill.
Here are some videos for beginners (note, this is not at all a comprehensive list):
You can also shop online for supplies and patterns from small businesses who could use your business during this difficult time.
Some places to start are:
Kiriki Press in Toronto
Fabric Spark in Toronto
Needlework in Hamilton, Ont.
Prairie Love Knits in Spruce Grove, Alta.
Never Done Quilting in Beiseker, Alta.
Spool of Thread in Vancouver
Fabrications in Ottawa
East Coast Quilt Co. in St. John’s
Pre-pandemic, I would have told you to find a crafting group at your local library, community centre, or store-front studio, but since we’re all at home for the foreseeable future, those options are out. But once we’re allowed outside again, I encourage you to seek out groups, classes, and workshops in your area.
So, reader, be kind to yourself and do something that makes you feel good.
And that’s your habit of the day.
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