Craft heals us in many different ways. The process of visualizing a project then bringing it to fruition is one of the most powerful aspects of craft therapy.
This post speaks specifically about crochet, because that is the craft that I have the most experience with. However, other crafts can also heal in the same way.
Crochet Can Help With Different Kinds of Depression
Depression is a complex condition with a number of different possible causes.
Person A may have depression primarily rooted in problematic serotonin levels. Person B may have depression caused by hormone imbalances. And there are different causes for Persons C – Z.
Doctors and researchers have come a very long way towards identifying, understanding and treating depression in recent years but the truth of the matter is that we still aren’t entirely sure of all causes and therefore don’t have one-off cures that can help everyone. Instead, depression varies from person to person and so the cures and treatments must vary as well.
However, because crochet has such wide-ranging benefits and features, it can assist people who have depression rooted in diverse causes. My depression may be different from your depression, and yet we can both treat the symptoms of the depression with crochet.
The repetitive act of crochet may release serotonin. This can help with serotonin-linked depression. However, craft heals us even if that’s not our type of depression.
Many people feel (rightly so) that their depression is situational and that they simply need to learn how to live and think differently in order to alleviate the symptoms of their depression. This is the reason that people dealing with depression may choose to solve it with a drastic life change or through talk therapy designed to provide greater insight into the person’s feelings rather than by taking medication.
So you might not feel that it benefits you to increase your serotonin levels by the repetitive act of crochet but crochet can still help you with this type of situational depression. This is due partially to the fact that crochet teaches you how to visualize a project and complete it, re-stimulating your creativity and imagination in an environment that allows you to succeed while also building your own self-esteem.
Craft Heals Us: Visualizing a New Project Helps
There are two parts to this process and both play an equally important role although some people will find one part more healing for them than the other. The first part is learning to visualize the project, getting the mind stimulated and acting creatively, planning for the future in the sense of how to create the project.
The second part is actually finishing the project to completion, which brings its own depression-lifting benefit for many people who get a boost of self-esteem and a sense of reward from having completed the project.
Something I’ve experienced in my own dealings with depression (and that I’ve seen mentioned often) is that depression causes a failure to visualize things in a positive way. You get rooted in a negative way of thinking and beyond that you truly have a difficult time imagining that things could ever be any different than they are. You are stuck with just that day’s reality staring you in the face and that reality isn’t pleasant so this stirs up feelings of hopelessness.
When you learn to visualize again, even in a small way, you allow your imagination to work. This opens you up to new possibilities, stirring up hope instead of hopelessness. This is how craft heals us.
The Mind’s Eye
In the Stitchlinks Guide to Our Theories So Far (a document from an organization that has researched the health benefits of needlework) this idea is referred to as Mind’s Eye.
It describes the actual tangible ability to visually picture something that isn’t right in front of you, imagining it more or less how it will look when it becomes realized. Stitchlinks’ guide author Corkhill says,
“I learnt that those suffering from depression have problems visualizing. As knitters and stitchers we’re constantly referring back to pictures of the finished project, visualizing these and imagining the praise and reaction of others on the completed item. We’re using our imagination all the time. So the question arose, “Could knitting and stitching be reawakening the Mind’s Eye?” and “Is reawakening this ability to visualize, and to look forwards, crucial to recovering from depression?”
There may not be a specific researched answer to those questions about visualization and the Mind’s Eye but many crocheters and knitters will tell you that their craft does help them to visualize things that aren’t sitting right in front of them.
I would argue that there is a correlation between being able to do this and being able to imagine a situation eventually being different than it currently is, something that helps immensely when dealing with depression.
In my own life, I thought that there would never be anything that I would ever like doing ever again. In the rare moments that I could visualize a life in which I enjoyed an activity, the depression lifted.
The Act of Working on and Completing a Project Heals
One of the questions that I asked when interviewing people about how craft heals us is what part of the crochet process they felt was the most healing aspect of the craft. I broke it down by asking them to think about the:
- anticipation and excitement of starting a new project
- actual experience of crafting a project
- satisfaction of having an end product to be proud of when the project is completed.
The answers were different for everyone but what became clear to me is that each stage does play a role in the healing process. The fact that a the crochet project is fairly easy to both imagine and achieve is important in the role it plays for helping people heal from depression.
Margaret Mills shared her with me and in that she shared the following thought that helps explain this:
“While all three stages work together, I think the part that really pulls me out of negative emotions is the planning stage. I can get absorbed in the “vision” of what I want to make.
I can create a pattern or search through books or look on the Internet for a pattern and then I go in search of the perfect yarn, etc. I think that is the best part because it sets a goal and gives hope for the future.
At the same time, it isn’t rocket science or getting a graduate degree; it’s a very achievable goal.
Also, the anticipation when you are making a gift for someone really lifts the spirit. I designed an “alphabet” afghan for my four-year-old grandson, an afghan stitch blanket with the alphabet cross stitched on it, and I’m sure I got more fun out of making it than he did in getting it.
Actually doing the work is a close second in healing for me. I think the work itself brings calmness and a sense of accomplishment.”
This is an edited excerpt from my book Crochet Saved My Life, which is about all of the health benefits of crochet and crafting.