I’ve written a lot about mindfulness crochet on this blog and in my book, Crochet Saved My Life. But what exactly is mindfulness? What does it mean to crochet to achieve mindfulness? And is it a different thing entirely to be mindful in crochet work? This article explains more about crochet and mindfulness.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a term that most people associate with Buddhism although it’s not necessarily a part of formal Buddhist practice, at least it’s not the way that most Westerners practice mindfulness today. At its core, mindfulness is really just complete concentration on the present moment. You are being mindful when you stop focusing on the thoughts in your head and start focusing on all of the senses you are experiencing right now in the present moment.
Benefits of Mindfulness
People today, myself included, are often interested in mindfulness because of the many different benefits it can offer to mental health, physical health and a generally improved quality of life. Some of the most commonly cited benefits of mindfulness include:
- Reduced anxiety. It is difficult to be anxious when you are focusing on the present moment because it is clear that you are okay right now in the present moment. (It should be noted that in the initial stages of learning to practice mindfulness there can be a period of anxiety and discomfort but this passes with practice).
- Relaxation and stress-reduction. Taking the time to sit still and focus on what is right in front of you provides a relaxing release that you don’t get if you’re just going, going, going all day long.
- Increased energy. Many people say that the relaxation offered through mindfulness and the de-stressing they experience when practicing mindfulness regularly allows them to feel increased energy throughout the day.
- Reduced depression. In Crochet Saved My Life I talk a lot about my own experience of fighting depression and how mindfulness through crochet helped me with that. Mindfulness is frequently used as part of the treatment for many mental health conditions including depression and bipolar disorder.
In another article I wrote about crochet and mindfulness for depression I explained:
Crochet is terrific because it is a hands-on, focused activity that has repetitive (and therefore meditative) qualities. When you catch yourself ruminating on negative thoughts, you can learn to consistently bring yourself back to the work at hand. When I was dealing with depression, it was helpful to remind myself that I could not solve THIS BIG PROBLEM (whatever I felt like the problem was) and that my only concern right then needed to be finishing the scarf in my hands because that was something I did have control over and could do. I could notice that I was thinking about something else or fretting or spiraling into negativity and then I could mindfully and intentionally let that feeling go in order to re-focus on the task at hand.
Other possible benefits of mindfulness supported by research include memory improvement, cognitive flexibility, less emotional reactivity, enhanced self-insight and ability to deal with fear.
Crochet to Achieve Mindfulness
I believe that crochet is a tool that can be used to achieve mindfulness. Like I said before, mindfulness is all about paying intense concentration to what you are doing. Taking the time to sit and focus on your crochet work, and purposefully doing it in a mindful way, can be an intentional mindfulness practice. Some of the ways that crochet can be used to achieve mindfulness include:
- Make it a habit to turn off all TV, radio and other noise when you crochet. Focus just on what you are doing with your hands.
- Challenge yourself to try new techniques in crochet. Things you don’t know how to do as well will require more focused attention. Mindfulness will happen naturally as a result.
- Counting is often used as a means to mindfulness. There is a lot of counting in crochet! You may try to count to the end of each row without allowing a non-present thought to intrude and start each row over whenever intrusive thoughts do appear.
- Try to focus on all minor motions of the crochet. Focus on each yarn over, each hook through, each turn of the work. Notice what you are doing, what it looks like, what it feels like.
- Use certain cues in crochet to bring you back to focusing on your work. For example, get in the habit of returning to mindfulness each time that you end a row in any project.
- Relate your crochet to other meditation / prayer practices that you may do. For example, designer Hariette Cole did a collection of crochet items that all incorporate 108 stitches in a row because that’s how many beads are on the mala necklace she uses to meditate. Likewise, many people choose to make prayer shawls where they set an intention / prayer as they make the item.
Using crochet to practice mindfulness for just twenty minutes each day will allow you to bring mindfulness benefits into your everyday life. Often you’ll find yourself becoming more mindful throughout the day even when you’ve put the hooks away.
Did you know that there are six mindfulness crochet exercises in my book, Crochet Saved My Life? Buy your copy now.
Mindfulness in Crochet Work
Even if you don’t want to say that all of this is hooey and that there’s no need for you to practice mindfulness (which I say is a shame, but totally your right to feel that way!), you may find that intentional mindfulness in your crochet work is an asset to the work itself. That’s because the more attention you pay to the details of your work, the more “perfect” the work is going to look. (I put “perfect” in quotes because each handmade item is different and that’s what makes each one special so “perfect” is a very subjective term.)
When you focus on your crochet work with intense concentration, rather than doing it mindlessly or while multi-tasking other things, the work is improved. You notice little things more and can fix problems immediately that you might otherwise let go. For example, sometimes when I work quickly I’ll get my hook caught between the plies of yarn and pull it through in the wrong spot. It’s usually undetectable to most people once the work is done but if I’m crocheting mindfully this either does not happen or will be something I notice and correct. I’m not a perfectionist in my crochet work by any stretch of the imagination but I admit that there’s something satisfying in knowing that you did the best work you possibly could do in making a piece.
What are your thoughts about crochet for mindfulness?