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Crochet as a tool for combating the perils of modern life

I’ve grown up in a generation of sick people.

At least half of the people I know are on medication for a mental illness (depression, anxiety), on medication for a physical illness (Crohn’s Disease, arthritis) or on a severely restricted diet to manage food allergies (to soy, gluten, dairy…). At the same time we’re wishing each other ‘Happy 30th’ birthdays.

Perils of Modern Life

I’ve seen these illnesses referred to as ‘modern ailments’. Nowadays (at least in developed countries), we’re at very little risk of dying from an unhealed wound or from being infected with malaria… which used to kill off people in droves. But that doesn’t mean we’re healthy people.

Doctors and researchers are discovering that the hustle, bustle and stress in our daily lives is making us ill. All too many people: wake up, (maybe) shove in breakfast, hop in the car to sit in a long and frustrating commute, sit at a desk and work 8-12 hours (encountering stresses that raise blood pressure levels), sit in a car to come back home and eat a processed dinner, too tired to fix anything else.

Relief for the modern lifestyle

Fortunately, you don’t need to quit your job and become a monk to find relief from the rat race. (Although, that said, anxiety issues were a major motivation in me leaving an academic track and pursuing a career in crochet!)

Research seems to show that taking small breaks from your stress leads to a profound improvement in your health. You’ve heard the advice: Meditate for 15 minutes a day. Or go for a jog 3 days a week. Or get a dog (which forces you to go outside and play). The reward? Lower stress levels and a happier life.

Crochet Saved My Life

I was already convinced that finding a way of reducing stress was crucial to a happy life long before I read Kathryn Vercillo’s book, Crochet Saved my Life. But it hadn’t occurred to me that crochet could be the stress-reliever that many people need!

Kathryn points out that the act of crocheting is calming and meditative, and provides stress relief to those who may not be interested in yoga or traditional meditation. Furthermore, the craft creates additional benefits that are slipping away from our modern lifestyles. For example, crocheting provides:

  • concrete, obtainable goals (which when completed, serve to boost satisfaction and self-esteem)
  • a common-ground for community to be developed (and trust me, having friends and chatting is crucial to happiness!)
  • a tactile way of relating to the world, in touching natural fibers like wool and cotton

Taking a few minutes out of your day to de-stress and enjoy the benefits of relaxation is something that can be integrated into everyone’s life. But, what was eye-opening to me was the powerful stories of how people’s lives have been changed by the act of picking up a crochet hook. Stories of rising out of depression, beating addition and overcoming anxieties… through the craft of crochet.

The book opens with Kathryn’s own battle with depression, and continues with one gripping and amazing story after another of despair and relief through crocheting. The book is also chock-full of scientific research, and it’s immediately obvious to anyone reading it that the message reaches far beyond crocheting: crafting, particularly tactile and engaging crafting, does wonders for the spirit.

Grab this book…

… if you’re stressed/anxious/depressed and are looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. Read it for inspiration from powerful women who have turned their lives around. If you have a friend/relative struggling with mental illness, read it as a way to gain insight into their experience- as Kathryn has a gift for putting into words ideas that usually remain hiding in the back of peoples’ minds. You might even want to read what’s inside this book so you’ll have an excuse for squeezing in more crocheting!

Yup, there’s some technical stuff and big words. Don’t let it scare you… nothing is mentioned without being explained in layman’s terms.

I sincerely hope, whether or not you read the book, that you regard your mental health as a top priority. Many people (especially women) treat themselves as martyrs, running this way and that to solve their family and friends’ problems. But keep in mind what we all learned from the airline safety videos: you need to help yourself before you can help others. So, please, take care of yourself!

11 Responses to “Crochet as a tool for combating the perils of modern life”

  1. Ellen says:

    Thanks for this – just the reminder I needed today :)

  2. Vanessa says:

    Love it! I really need to pick up this book since knitting (and crochet!) helped save my sanity during chemo. I don’t think I would have gotten through treatment as gracefully as I did with out it.

    I have noticed that the friends who make things (whether it be fine art, model making or even just cooking/baking) as a hobby or a job seem to be the happier and healthier friends I have.

  3. Great blog entry. I find working part-time is just perfect for me as it leaves me plenty of time for crocheting, walking, cooking and looking after my family. :-)

  4. Amazing, I take my crochet to work + do some in my lunch break, and concentrating on that certainly is calming – will be an interesting read!

  5. Diana Valentin says:

    As someone who has suffered from depression/anxiety (and still very much does), this blog entry is dead on!!! I just discovered amigurumi and being able to start something and finish it; to have tangible proof of an accomplishment; to share this discovery with others, has been a saving grace! Thank you for proving my feelings right!

  6. Hev says:

    I use all my crafts (embroidery, counted cross stitch, beading, quilting, knitting, & crochet) for these reasons. They are so soothing & it takes your mind off the problems that you are having. Leaving you refreshed & ready to tackle them.

  7. Melanie says:

    Awesome. Crochet time is stress relief time for me and like the poster above I crochet during my daily commute to work on the train and sometimes in my lunch break. It really does help :)

  8. Liz says:

    Crochet and designing amigurumi helps me when I’m literally exhausted from my seizures and epilepsy and can’t do much else. It’s always rewarding to see the smile on people’s faces when a “critter” is created.

  9. Tahlia says:

    Picked this up on Kindle… definitely can’t wait to read!

  10. Christine says:

    I’ve been crocheting quite a bit lately as I can keep an I on my toddler at the same time (rather than sitting at my sewing machine). Perhaps I am not getting the maximum relaxation benefit this way, better than nothing I guess and I was really keen to get back to creating.

  11. Betsy Greer says:

    It is amazing the connection b/w the mind and the hands, isn’t it? Although there are better links on knitting/crocheting/stitching’s influence on the brain, this is a good starter in learning more: http://knitting.about.com/b/2007/08/20/knitting-for-stress-relief.htm (And, no, I didn’t write that…)

    It never fails to amaze me at how even 5 tiny minutes of stitching can ease my mind and worries! :)