Crafting my way to happiness

Alpha wave generator

Alpha wave generator

Regular readers of this blog will know that I dedicate quite a lot of time to craft projects – crochet, knitting and felting in particular, but I also do needlepoint, embroidery, paper-making, and more. Some of my creations are useful things (socks, gloves, bath puffs), but some are quite frivolous… the collection of knitted slugs probably have little practical use! However, there are more reasons for craft activities than just the finished item.

Knitting and crochet are portable and I take my projects with me to all sorts of situations. For example I often knit socks whilst travelling, attending courses and conferences, teachingĀ  and when participating in meetings. I do often have to explain to people that my knitting does not mean that I’m not paying attention nor should they consider it disrespectful – it’s just something I do with my hands and that helps me to think. Don’t believe me? Well, I have been knitting for more than 35 years, so it does come quite naturally andĀ  there is sound evidence showing that knitting is associated with the production of alpha waves by the brain. According to the Bicybernaut Institute

Alpha brain waves are seen in wakefulness where there is a relaxed and effortless alertness

Production of these brainwaves reduces stress and is associated with creativity. They are also linked to heightened imagination, visualisation, memory, learning and concentration. And knitting (along with other craft activities) encourages their production. The Circles website, for example, states that

The act of knitting has some inherent and intriguing qualities to it. It has been shown that when we knit, our brains produce the alpha waves of a relaxed meditative state… Clinical studies have found that the repetitive action of knitting creates a calming effect. Yes, more alpha waves than when meditating or doing yoga. Due to this, it is quite effective to use knitting as a mechanism for opening up to self-exploration, growth and healing. From simply adding knitting to a traditional therapy model of talking and processing with a guide, to knitting a specific project chosen or designed to evoke specific paths of exploration, knitting is one of the most relaxed and enjoyable, while highly effective, modes of growing your self-awareness that you can experience.

Last week I attended the latest in a series of meetings that have all been rather stressful. However, for the first time, I took some knitting with me and was delighted to find that I came away much less tense than usual and, along with the progress made in the meeting itself, with about a quarter of a sock more than when I started. I also didn’t feel the need for a large glass of wine as soon as I got home!

Alpha brainwaves are produced when we do all sorts of craft activities… things that are gentle and repetitive and that allow us to relax, thus freeing our minds. We can combine creativity with our hands with mental creativity. I have never been comfortable with sitting thinking about my breathing in order to relax and mediate, but give me some wool, water and soap and I will happily felt my way into a meditative state! So that’s what I’m off to do now, I have a felted peg bag to finish and some ideas about a chapter for a research handbook I’m writing to get sorted out in my mind, so excuse me whilst I go and get soapy… and thoughtful!

Just say ‘no’

According to Elton John ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’, but for me, it seems, in fact, to be ‘no’.

I may need to take some lessons from Max!

They say that if you want something doing, you should ask a busy person. So I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t some noticeboard out there listing busy people that has my name on. Now, don’t get me wrong…I love being involved with the various organisations that I do voluntary work for, and I’m happy with the paid work that I do, and I want to continue growing some of my own food, and making items for the house, and keeping chickens, and cooking pretty much everything from scratch, and studying for my diploma, and teaching adults, and… well, perhaps you get the idea. However, I also want to feel a bit less overwhelmed with things to do!

So, this week I have said ‘no’ twice. Once in relation to charity work and once in relation to paid work. I should be feeling relieved – I already do lots of charitable work and this was in addition to an extra role that I have already taken on recently; and I will only be unavailable for 10 days of paid freelance work – but I seem, instead, to be feeling guilty.

I normally always agree to help out with whatever I’m asked to, but recently when I mentioned this to a friend, she reminded me of the three permaculture ethics: earth care; people care; and what I have always referred to as ‘fair share’ (because they rhyme). The friend described the third ethic as ‘sharing surplus’ and suggested that I should be sharing my ‘surplus’ energy rather than all of my energy… and that I should consider myself as well as other when I think of ‘people care’. It’s true – and I guess also that ‘people care’ should begin at home, but I still can’t help feeling that perhaps I shouldn’t have said ‘no’! Perhaps I just need something to fret about, or perhaps it’s just that it’s a new experience for me…

Anyway, I’m off now to get on with a bit of work for the Permaculture Association and then I might get round to making a felt case for my camera that I have, so far, not found time for!

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