Mindful crafting and creativity can be fulfilling ways of building mindful activity into our lives. Whether you paint, stitch, sew, make, bake, decorate, or however you ‘do’ your creativity, it goes without saying that creativity can tick all three wellness boxes of achievement, connection and enjoyment. And, if you can add mindfulness do your crafting, you can increase the wellbeing benefits of creativity by using this time to stay present and train your mindfulness muscle.
Mindfulness is choosing to be in the present moment and adopting a compassionate non-judgemental stance towards your experience.
It’s well known that mindfulness can help us to develop greater resilience to life’s ups and downs, lead to greater calm and increase our awareness of our thoughts. As a CBT therapist in Bath, I regularly help clients to understand the idea that our thoughts impact on our feelings. If we can be aware of our own thought patterns, we are then better able to choose which thoughts are helpful to us, and which stand in the way of us leading the life we want to.
We’ve all seen those mindful colouring-in books by now, but it occurred to me that many people use these without really knowing how to colour or craft with mindful attention. So… a blog post is born. There’s no use turning to your colouring book or picking up some knitting needles and hoping your troubles will disappear, grumbling inwardly at the day’s stresses - your creative efforts will only suffer. Neither does it help you to settle down for a creative half hour and spend that time judging the fruits of your endeavours – perhaps you begin to compare it to other people’s work, or tell yourself that you can’t draw, or just aren't any good at being creative. These kinds of thoughts simply spoil your creativity, takes away the fun and leaves you feeling sorry for yourself. The answer is mindful creativity or mindful crafting.
To craft or create mindfully there are a few simple steps to get more from your creative pastimes.
The art of mindfulness
The first tip is to remember the main principle of mindfulness which is to pay attention on purpose. To pay attention, you can practise noticing when your mind wanders off to anything other than your chosen task. If you’re sketching and thinking about your shopping list or picking the kids up from school, then you’re not giving your task your full attention. This is to be expected, this is what minds do! The aim of mindful crafting is to notice each time your mind gets lost in its own thoughts. When you have dedicated time to your creativity, how does it help you now to be planning your weekly shop? There’s time for that later. Each time you notice your mind taking a walk, just thank your mind for its attention to the future or the past, and bring it back to the detail of now. Each time you do this, you can congratulate yourself, for this is the art of mindfulness.
It’s not always easy, because our minds are used to running on autopilot. What can help is to focus your attention on your creativity by using your senses. Sight can pull you into colours, shades and tones. Hearing can tune you into your activity by listening carefully to sounds you may never have before associated with your work. Touch can keep you in contact with your craft as you notice the weight of materials or tools, the texture of any fabrics, or the feel of any accessories you use. Smell and taste are also useful senses to tune in to, particularly if your creativity is in the kitchen.
An important aspect of mindfulness is a non-judgemental attitude. Mindfulness expert Shamash Alidina calls this 'kindfulness.' What this means is, as much as you can, notice and refrain from judging your work in any way, and let yourself be gentle and encouraging with your efforts. After all, what do you get when you begin to judge your own creativity? What impact does this have on your mood or your results? Notice any tendencies to judge or be down on yourself, and let this go. As before, use your senses to re-engage with your task.
I hope this helps to give you a start on mindful crafting or creativity. Spend your time truly engaged with your creativity and notice the results. If you can immerse yourself in crafting in this way, then you can begin to experience the state they call flow, when time flows effortlessly and you feel calm and engaged, giving you your best results. Happy creating!