In my last newsletter, I wrote about how I have added yoga as part of my mix of “things to do for me”.  I know I shouldn’t tell you this, but it has made a difference in my sleep, which was erratic at best and at the worst of times, elusive. I can even feel myself becoming more flexible (from years of playing sports and running, I have the natural flexibility of a chopstick).

In our yoga class, the instructor will remind us to be “mindful” when we are moving from one pose to another. I have been intrigued by the notion of being “in the moment” since reading a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the early 90’s, on the benefits of mindfulness. The idea sounded so beneficial to other parts of everyday living that I have continued to try and seek out this practice where I can.

In a recent workshop, one of the ladies talked about how crafting has become her stress reliever. She said that she found it very easy to sew and not let the external stresses of her life push down on her.  It was pointed out by another sewer in the class that this was mindfulness and my ears perked up.  As it turned out, this lady (named Gillian) is Senior Lecturer in Mental Health at the University of Salford so she knows her stuff! Gillian offered up her experience, both personally and professionally, of how crafting has become part of her portfolio to help with her pursuit of mindfulness. We all stopped sewing to listen to her talk – it was a very absorbing conversation, to say the least.

It occurred to me that her thoughts on this might be of interest to you, (who of us couldn’t use a bit of help on the stress relieving front?!). So I asked her if she would write about her experience as a mindful sewer but also how you too, could use her skills to help you with your mindfulness.

Mindful sewing

I recently enrolled on one of Maeri’s dressmaking courses to re-engage with sewing. I used to sew and design my own clothes back in the 1980’s but had lost my confidence and had not been sewing for many years. I dusted down my old sewing machine and signed up. The course was fantastic and exactly what I needed to kick start my sewing again.

With my training in mindfulness, I had realised that being creative and refocusing on the current moment is actually practising mindfulness. During the workshop, we all ended up chatting about this concept and the conversation was an eye opener to some about how mindfulness works.  I thought I would describe this process in more detail;

You know the moment when you drift off into really experiencing the feel of the material, the sound and vibrations of your sewing machine and the experience of sewing….well,  you are having a mindful moment. The more you can focus on being “in the moment” or  the experience of sewing,  the more time you are also practising mindfulness.

Mindfulness has demonstrated considerable research evidence that it relieves stress, depression, anxiety and other forms of mental health issues. Formal meditative practice is of course very useful, but some people struggle to sit and do this for up to 45mins per day. “Mindful mooching, from integrated mindfulness,  is what you also may be doing when you shop for material and are walking around touching, noticing the sheen of the material and the colour, or even the drape or the grain. You are really experiencing and using your senses to enjoy the moment.All of these sewing activities will contribute to your overall levels of mindfulness and thus help you cope with stress and increase your emotional wellbeing.

Needless to say,  I will be doing much more mindful sewing as this is such a lovely way to achieve a relaxed state of mind.

For further information on integrated mindfulness and courses, visit my friends website Tim Duerden.

Dr Gillian Rayner, University Senior Lecturer, Mental Health Nurse, Counsellor, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist and Mindfulness practitioner.

Thank you so much Gill for sharing!