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June 06, 2015

Using your hands helps your brain and increases well-being

  • Crafting can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression or chronic pain, experts say
  • It may also ease stress, increase happiness by releasing neurotransmitter called dopamine
  • Leisure activities such as reading and crafting may protect brain from aging, study finds

via www.cnn.com

I abandoned my blog over a year ago. In a sense I abandoned myself, because my self was in a weird downward spiral.

When you can't pull up out of a gnarly place, sometimes it's better to not pay attention to your own thought processes.

Knitting got me through the last 18 months, which featured abrupt changes of fortune and emotional lows.

Recent neurological research shows that creating something - anything - interrupts negative emotional loops that can keep us stuck. Knitting helped me release stress and I'm certain that it prevented me from crashing into depression. I didn't quite have the heart for woodworking, welding or more challenging hobbies. But the soft, cozy yarn and the quiet click of my needles seemed to be the perfect tonic.

The CNN article above documents how others have experienced emotional healing through crafting. Maybe you'd like to share your own experience in the comments below. Or maybe just read the article and take comfort in knowing that there's an inexpensive, gentle solution waiting for you if you're in a dark time.

Hand knit socks - ToolGirl Mag Ruffman
One pair of more than 40 sets of socks I've knitted in the last year

Comments

Flyfisherjo

I tend to switch between sewing and knitting. In my last apt., there really wasn't room to sew and I lacked inspiration. I did discover a yarn shop that sells all kinds of beautiful yarns. I use them to escape the pressure of a miserable principal. It does work well and I think everyone I knit with once a week would agree too. They are from all walks of life and find knitting relieves the pressure while they create beautiful things to wear or give away. Drop by Eweknit in Toronto sometime and see what we create with. :)

ToolGirl

Hi Flyfisherjo,
I adore EweKnit! It's my go-to yarn store whenever I'm in the city! I'm curious to know what day of the week you meet with your group. I'm really glad you've found an escape that soothes you.

Sorry about the miserable principal. Maybe she/he would benefit from learning to knit. Although my guess is they wouldn't exactly be open to the suggestion?
xo
Mag

Flyfisherjo

Hi Mag, We meet on Thursdays but are on hiatus for the summer. Check with Claudia for when we meet next.
As for the principal, I can be a pretty cheerful passive aggressive and come up all sorts of ways to get her back. :)

ToolGirl

Atta girl --- creativity finds exquisite outlet in payback!
Mag

Bettina Goodwin

I wish I'd known about this 15 years ago when I was feeling a lot of emotional upheaval. It's comforting to know that there is something that can help people through. I love to do anything creative, sew, knit, bake, craft. Maybe I'm on the maintenance plan!
I love your work, used to watch your shows and am glad you found the knitting to be a comfort and way to move through a tough time. Just the way you expressed the softness of the knitting felt comforting. xx

ToolGirl

Hi Bettina,
I love your 'maintenance plan' concept for lifelong emotional balance! I enjoyed looking around your web site just now. I totally understand your desire to advocate on behalf of men, especially those who are separated from their hearts. (When we produced 'Men On Women' our goal was to help women understand men a little better and perhaps create empathy where there had been misunderstanding or even contempt.) Keep up your good work.
xo
Mag

tw

Saying welcome back doesn't quite seem right, but glad to see you surface again Mag. You've been missed.

ToolGirl

Thanks tw, I appreciate knowing that, and it's very kind of you to say it.
xx
Mag

Peter Wiles

Until now I've never read or responded to a blog but, as it happens I am emerging from a 2 year self-exiled cocoonification, thinly constructed around the pretence of seeking enlightenment through utter idleness. Anyway, I found that industry is indeed the best cure for melancholy, and, as my first project, chose to decoupage a photo of a recently deceased friend onto a canoe paddle carved for me by the very same person. However, it has been many years since I have decoupaged anything, and in seeking some current information on the subject, I found myself not only learning about the possibilities of ink-jet printing to iron-on transfer paper but also that the cold, digital age of blogging may yet preserve a vital part of the human condition. Thank you for both.

ToolGirl

Thank you for your thoughts, Peter. Your message is pithy and moving. And you coined the term cocoonification, which is an undeniable act of creativity in itself. I'm sorry your carver friend died. I'm glad you are learning and un-idle again. Life is such an explosively tenuous deal. It helps to keep moving. Or as Winston Churchill, who cultivated several hobbies including bricklaying and oil painting to help him work through political problems, said, "To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real."
xo
Mag

Judi Buller

Wow, I'm glad to see you're back, Mag. I started following this site shortly before you took your break, and I was so hoping it wouldn't be forever. I'm also glad to see that your sprightly personality is still intact.
I've always been a crafter, from making cameras and nurses' kits out of graham cracker boxes when I was little, to crocheting, sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, weaving on antique hand looms, furniture refinishing, and now I've added rugs made from old sheets, purses made from candy wrappers and chip bags, and shopping/picnic totes made from plastic bags.
For several years recently, we were dealing with a troubled teen daughter, who had not-so-typical issues related to abandonment at birth. She seemed fine to people outside our family, so it was extra difficult to get help, and I had no support for myself except through prayer, music, and my crafts. In fact, I found myself often thinking of stitches or brush strokes as prayers, similar to how I learned many years ago to view my work as a professional accompanist. I'm with you on the thought that creativity is more than a finished product, it's also therapy.

ToolGirl

Wow, Judi, we must have been separated at birth! Although you were clearly the first twin because you're way more accomplished, and from such an early age! All that dexterity AND you're an accompanist? Your hand-brain connection is super-charged!

I'm so moved by your musing that prayers take form in stitches and brush strokes. I found myself enumerating - 20,000 prayers in a pair of hand knit socks. It is a compelling thought that prayer can be offered in the simple act of crafting. In fact, maybe it's not crafting that's so therapeutic, but rather the way it shapes one's thoughts into prayers.

Thank you for sharing a small piece of your story.
xo
Your sis from another missus

Judi Buller

Thank you, Mag! You took the stitches-as-prayers idea and made it so poetic. I hope it brought you cheer, you certainly deserve it.
Thanks for thinking of me as 'accomplished,' too, although I'm not sure I'd go that far, I just like to keep my hands and mind productive.

Well, your comment about being separated at birth piqued my curiosity; I checked, and discovered that you were actually the first 'twin' - by exactly three weeks! I didn't arrive until Bach's birthday that year. (I'm pretty sure I have more gray hair, though. :) )

Here's hoping your days continue to get brighter!

Flyfisherjo

Hi Mag,
I wanted to let you know that Eweknit is moving as of September to 832 Bloor St. W (near Ossington). A much bigger store and parking!
In relation to comments above, if I get to Mass early, I often knit while waiting. Sometimes I get looks (never from the priests) but to me each stitch is as good as a rosary bead and I have something to show for it at the end. :)

ToolGirl

Judi, that's so fun that our birthdays are so close! You ARE accomplished, you're just too modest to call it that. I was noticing today how I see all of my various doings as 'being a drifter' rather than as being a rich and successful evolution of capabilities. It's worth noting how your abundance of skills adds so much richness to life.
xoxo The first twin

ToolGirl

Hi Flyfisherjo,
Thank you so much for the heads up on Eweknit's move. I've been recommending their classes to people and it's so exciting to know that they're going to be less cramped. Maybe they'll have a nice big table now instead of that squidgy one!

And oh, how I love your stitches-as-rosary beads analogy! Maybe it's why hand-knitted things have such presence. It's that little bit of holiness in them.

Maybe see you at the new Eweknit this fall.
Mag

Flyfisherjo

A bigger table or two and a couch! The return of the couch! Lots of room for all the fabric that is coming in as well and she hopes room to teach quilting classes. Look for sales once the new location opens up too. Hope to see you, drop by on a Thursday evening.

Flyfisherjo

Just one more: a link to a BBC article mentioning knitting (and fishing!)being used by the NHS for proactive treatment in depression.
http://www.bbc.com/news/health-33016431
Now, if I could only get my doctor to prescribe a fly-fishing vacation with a leave of absence! :)

ToolGirl

Hi Jo,
You are the bearer of great news, twice! So happy to hear about Eweknit's vision for cozy couches and spacious tables. Can't wait to see it. And loved the article about the NHS prescribing knitting and fishing, and even home insulation upgrades. Let's move to the UK and get in on that!
Mag

Flyfisherjo

Packing my bags! :)

Sarah Felstead

I watched your series on UK television a number of years ago, and absolutely loved it, especially when you were tucked under a sink cleaning out the pea trap ... Occasionally I check your web site but often it seems it is not current so I am pleased this is recent. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your series.

There is very little on TV for do it yourself especially for women and your tongue in cheek approach is smashing. In the UK there is suddenly a developing approach to women in TV after a presenter took the BBC to court for ousting her (and her skills) for a younger presenter, and won. Since then the news programmes are full of women. I am leading up to asking if you would consider approaching Sky TV to do your thing in a series with them? An idea anyway.... ;)

Sarah Felstead

The presenter was Miriam O'Reilly and the programme was Countryfile

Flyfisherjo

Grand opening for new Eweknit location is tonight at 6pm, 824 Bloor St. West (2 blocks east of Ossington). Good sales too! Hope you can drop by this fall.

Bettina Goodwin

Hi Mag,
I just now read your reply to my comment above. So thank you for that. I love working with men - it's so great to watch them move into their hearts and embrace their vulnerability. Very heartwarming. I believe they need a safe space to express it and a lot of times have trouble finding such a space.
xx

Abi

Hi
I've heard of you from Anne of green gables.its pretty special. Quick question how long have you been knitting this?
Take care,
Abi mensah

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Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie