This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. You may be reading this and be thinking that you do not need to carry on reading because you feel that you do not have a mental health problem, the true fact is that we all have mental health, and good mental health is an asset which helps us to thrive. The Mental Health Foundation completed a study this year that examined levels of positive and negative mental health in a population. They found that more than 4/10 people reported to have experienced depression, and over 1/4 have experienced a panic attack. They discovered that the current levels of good mental health are currently very low in England, Scotland and Wales. Over the years I have suffered personally from poor mental health, and in November last year it got to a point where I could not ignore it anymore. Over the months that followed I have tried everything to help improve my mental health (medication, CBT, psychotherapy, meditation). All of these things have helped me greatly, but one of the most surprising things that has helped me, is learning to sew. Whilst being unable to work Mr Sew got me my first sewing machine as I have always wanted to learn to sew and he thought it would help improve my mental health if I was able to be creative. I really believe that being creative helps good mental health, and this is why:
1. You have probably heard of the word mindfulness. Mindfulness basically means doing one thing at a time and being present in the moment. When you are sewing that is all you are able to concentrate on, unless you want to make a mistake of course. And when I find my mind wondering I concentrate on the whirring sound of my machine, the sharp sound of my scissors on the fabric and the steam of the iron
2. It allows you to have 'me-time' without feeling selfish about it. Sewing allows you to spend time on your own and to do something for yourself. I personally disliked who I was and sewing myself clothes has helped me to find things I like about myself again. Also I feared being left alone, but sewing has really helped me take those steps to spending time by myself
3. Ok so we all love instagram, but it is really important to spend time away from our phones/laptops/computers/TV. Sewing really allows you to feel that you have accomplished something with your day instead of just sitting in front of the TV or scrolling through your social media feeds. Also taking time away from those social media feeds really helps to improve your mental health, we all know that we shouldn't compare ourselves to other people's social media lives but at times this can be incredibly difficult
4. I mention it in the point above, but sewing gives you a feeling of accomplishment. When you feel that you are 'not good at anything', or you are a 'failure', sewing gives you a finished product at the end of the day and you can look at it and be like 'yes i made that'
5. Sewing improves your self-confidence. It gives you a topic to talk about to friends, you get to wear pretty items out of the house and tell everyone that you made it, and you get to fit garments to your real shape (not the shape of the high street!)
6. Sewing helps to improve your concentration and memory. My concentration and memory is something I have really struggled with throughout my illness, but in order to avoid making mistakes you have to concentrate on the task at hand, and you have to remember the next steps
Sewing has really become a coping strategy for my depression and anxiety disorder. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, it has improved my self-confidence and it has taught me to allow myself to be in the moment.
It is vital that we take into account our mental health, and not just think about it when we feel that we have a poor mental health. We need to look after our mental health in order to enjoy life and to be able to manage the challenges that life may throw at us. It is important that we do things to promote good mental health, and being creative is one way that has been proven to help, so why not give sewing a go?