6 Reasons Why Sewing Benefits Your Mental Health

Mental Health Benefits of Sewing by thisblogisnotforyou.com

This week was world mental health day. What have sewing and mental health to do with each other, you might ask?

I asked myself the same question quite a few times. Why? Some of you might know that when I’m not sitting behind the sewing machine, I work full-time as a psychologist. So naturally I’ve thought about how these two very different passions of mine might go together. Not just in theory, but also in practice. I’ve lead some sewing groups for patients in a psychiatric hospital and witnessed the wonderful effects it has on some people.

Sewing not only is a great coping strategy for some people suffering from mental health issues. It’s a really great way of preventing our mental health from getting out of balance in the first place. Most of the time we might not think about it consciously, but we certainly feel the effects of it. Ever asked yourself why you are so addicted to and passionate about your hobby? Why you feel so much better after squeezing in some sewing during a busy day?

I have listed a couple of reasons why sewing makes us feel better and why it might be a great hobby to try if you are struggling to keep a balanced mind.

 

1. Allowing yourself some “selfish” me-time

Do you feel guilty when you’re spending your free time with sewing for yourself? You shouldn’t be! Sewing is a great way to not only spend some time with yourself, but also do something for yourself. Everyone of us needs some pampering every now and then. Especially if you work in a helping profession or spend your day caring for your family and others.

Taking time for yourself is important. We all need to focus on ourselves every once in a while to prevent ourselves from burning out. Did you know that one of the main causes for burnout is measuring your self-worth by the things you do for others and the appreciation you get (or might not get)? If your sense of self and self-worth is solely dependent on making others happy your self-esteem is a very fragile thing.

In allowing yourself to be immersed in something you simply do for your own pleasure you can spend some quality time with yourself, simply because you’re worth it.

 

2. Spending time away from your smart devices to prevent sensory overload

This is a more important point than you might think. Smart phones/laptops/tablets etc. have become such a major part of our lives. Think about how much time – just how many hours – you spend on any of these three plus your TV during the day. Spending the evening watching TV, or lying on the sofa with your laptop might seem to be a very relaxing thing to do at first glance. What you’re actually doing is exposing your mind to a massive sensory input. This is why we sometimes feel just too fatigued and tired to do anything BUT sit in front of our laptop watching yet another meaningless video or scrolling through posts skimming through texts instead of properly reading them. Social media (Instagram and Bloglovin’, anyone?) might seem like a very low-key, undemanding thing to do to relax in the evening, but essentially it can lead to sensory overload. And if you don’t break away every once in a while you get stuck in a vicious cycle, being glued in front of a screen feeling unable to do anything else than that.

This seemingly effective and very easy way of distraction and ‘relaxation’ sometimes is nothing more than white noise in our lives. It can lead to feelings of unrest, dissatisfaction and exhaustion in some people, especially if you’re a results-oriented person. Ever felt like you haven’t accomplished anything during the day? Can’t remember what you actually did the last weekend? Going to work on Monday feeling exhausted despite having had two days off?

When you are sewing, you are doing something purposeful with your free time while you are giving your mind a proper chance to relax and reset. You’re in a happy, healthy little bubble that you leave with a feeling of relaxation and accomplishment.

 

3. Being mindful

This very much ties in with the topic above. Sensory overload also happens when we multi-task too much. And we cannot stay relaxed and balanced when we constantly do more than one thing at a time. It’s possible to eat your dinner in front of the TV, while texting on your phone and simultaneously making a to-do list for the next day in your head. Partners and kids not even included in this scenario. Our minds can do wonderful things. And multi-tasking has become some sort of a standard requirement in our time.

Don’t underestimate how incredibly important and healthy it is to focus on just a single thing. You might have heard about the concept of mindfulness, which is becoming more and more popular as a self-help and coping strategy. It means doing one thing at a time. Being concentrated on one thing alone and experiencing it with all our senses. Being in-the-moment.

It is very meditative and helps you to stay or become calm and relaxed. It helps to reduce stress and ruminating thoughts.

When you are sewing, you are basically forced to concentrate on one thing alone. You are fully immersed in your project. You have to go step-by-step. It’s not possible to multi-task, because you only have two hands and you need them both for every single step. There’s a certain order of things that you cannot evade if you want your project to be successful. A lot of sewing projects are demanding enough to keep our minds occupied and in-the-moment, without being stressful (hopefully!). And if your thoughts still keep running all over the place, try to consciously perceive your senses: Focus on the sound of your sewing machine, the scissors cutting through fabric or the feeling of a fabric between your fingers. Take everything in and enjoy the moment as much as possible.

Mental Health Benefits of Sewing by thisblogisnotforyou.com

4. Accomplishing something

Finishing a project feels like a major accomplishment. Holding or even wearing something you’ve made yourself, with your hands, from scratch, is an ineffably satisfying feeling. A sense of accomplishment is invaluable for our self-esteem.

And it’s not just about finishing a project and ticking off to-do lists. While you are working on a project you are learning new skills. You keep improving. You are developing effective problem-solving strategies. You have an opportunity to come up with amazing creativity.

Sewing gives you all sorts of reasons to feel proud of yourself and like yourself better.

 

5. Improving Body Image & Increasing Self-confidence

Since I started to sew, I’ve struggled less with my body image. I have often wondered how this is possible while I run around with a measuring tape, taking notes of my far-from-perfect measurements. This should be depressing. But somehow it is not.

Why does sewing help us get to grips better with our body image?

First of all, no more frustrating shopping trips! Shopping for trousers used to be a dreadful experience, always reminding myself that everything about my legs and bum was terribly wrong. Now, that I make my own clothes – including trousers – I do not have to go through depressing shopping trips anymore. I have learned more about sizing and that it’s simply unrealistic to fit in some average size.

Once you start sewing and get to know others who sew,  you notice that almost no one has a perfect body. Everyone has to make adjustments. It’s a very rare thing to fit into the average size.

Also, sewing helps you to develop your own individual style and sense of identity. You can make something no one else has. Something special and very individual.

Furthermore, if you sew something that fits well, you’ll start wearing your clothes with more confidence.

Oh, and let’s not forget: Compliments!

 

6. Effective coping strategy

If you are struggling with stress and an unbalanced lifestyle or you are suffering from a lack of drive or depression, sewing might be a very helpful coping strategy for you. It’s the overall package of a sense of accomplishment, self-confidence, of being in-the-moment. It’s a healthy way of distraction and most importantly, you can make it as easy or complicated as you like or are able to manage at the time.

Sewing is a very structured process which allows you to work on a project piecemeal and set your own speed. It helps you to work on your concentration. As it’s a step-by-step process, you can pause anytime without the frustrating feeling of having failed completely.

Socialising is important to keep a healthy balance in your life, especially if you are suffering from depression and anxiety. The sewing community is a wonderful way to connect with people. You can even talk to other sewists online if you don’t feel like going out or find it difficult to meet new people. Whatever your needs are, there is a way to share your passion with others. Talking to like-minded people can be very motivating and fulfilling.

Mental Health Benefits of Sewing by thisblogisnotforyou.com

What are your personal favourite benefits of sewing? Please join the discussion and leave a comment below.

I hope you enjoyed reading this somewhat special post. I certainly enjoyed writing it! I would love some feedback! Please let me know if you found this article interesting or helpful, and would like to read similar ones in the future.

xx

Charlie


Happy sewing!

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39 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why Sewing Benefits Your Mental Health

  1. Thank you for so succinctly putting into words many things I’ve thought about sewing over the years – I really enjoyed the article and would love to hear more! I spend my days dealing with spreadsheets and reports and a lot of intangible things, and it’s always been such a helpful thing for me to disconnect from all that and physically create something with my hands (instead of typing away at a computer). I’ve noticed in particular the stress-relief aspect of it, in that when I get so busy that I don’t have time to sew, my stress is compounded even more.

    One thing that I’m still working on incorporating is the mindfulness aspect of it, which I struggle doing in all parts of my life. I frequently have netflix or hulu on while I’m sewing, or some other form of distraction, and I’m trying to focus more on the task at hand. Do you have any tips for starting small with mindfulness?

    1. Hi Laura! Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I totally get the binge-watching netflix while sewing! I sometimes do the same 🙂 Not so much to do something else while sewing, but rather because I feel bad watching TV and it makes me feel better if I do something productive simultaneously – which, alas, is not mindful at all.(I sew better and more neatly if I’m not distracted I noticed.)

      Being mindful sometimes sounds a lot easier than it is. I takes some practice to get used to. Once you get used to it, it’s much easier to incorporate during your day, at work or at home. You can start with some simple, short exercises. For example, you can sit somewhere comfortably, your sofa or in your favourite spot and just sit there doing nothing else. No talking, no phone or book or anything. Stay focused on the moment as much as you can. If your thoughts keep drifting away to all sorts of things (which is normal at first!), try to really focus on your breathing or the way your sitting etc. If you struggle with keeping the focus on yourself, you could pick a single sound or object to focus on. E.g. put on some calming music and listen very attentively or brew a cup of tea and focus on the changing colour and temperature and smell for a couple of minutes.

      As for sewing mindfully, switching out the netflix for some calm music is a first step! x

  2. Love this post. I am very far from being mindful but am aware of how much sewing helps me to unwind at the end of the day. I often listen to audio books if the sewing is easy enough – not so mindful but something else I love too. Going to switch off my computer now and hand finish the dress I am working on. It’s a Hepburn!

  3. I enjoyed reading! Especially the part about over-exposure to screens.
    A couple of years ago I realized how stressful Facebook makes me feel. All the photos and posts from people trying to impress made all the special moments feel more like a show and less like real life. With time I have also become aware as to how much time people put into editting their photos to make them look better (But less true to life). I cut on my Facebook time drastically and keep my online presence sewing-related only. I feel the sewing community enables me the escapism I need without the stress. Recently though I feel the community has become less personal and more business oriented with big blogs becoming more popular and the smaller (and more authentic ones) difficult to find. At times it even feels like a popularity contest…

    1. YES! “Escapism without the stress” really sums up how I feel about it, too! I do share your opinion on how the community has changed in parts, as well. Nowadays it is harder for smaller blogs to grow, because there are just so many blogs out there.
      I do feel passionately about smaller blogs and I always try to find new ones to follow and support.
      There are a few blogs which are incredibly popular and which have become huge because they stick out in the masses of blogs. I don’t blame them for making some money or even a living from it. And it becomes harder to engage with your readers as personal as before once you turn it into a business. I agree, sometimes it feels a bit like a popularity contest and you always feel someone else is doing things better than you are. It’s impossible to keep up. You cannot compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Sometimes we can’t help it though. Whenever I feel I’ve reached that point, I always try and take a little blogging break once or twice a year, to ground myself and get a new perspective on things.
      Thanks for your lovely comment, Roni! x

  4. Thank you for sharing. I think the reason I enjoyed sewing so much when I first started was because it allowed me to switch off from thinking about other things, namely work. Since then, I have found it incredibly cathartic during some very tough times.

    I think your point about social media rang very true for me. I often look forward to an evening of instagram and Bloglovin, but end up just feeling dissatisfied, and restless. I think I need to read/scroll less and sew more!

    1. Hi Helen! ‘Cathartic’ really is the right term for it – I sometimes feel like sewing helps me to bundle up all my negative energy to use it in a positive way. I feel the same about my ‘social media evenings’. I try to pick out a few interesting articles and posts that I read intently, slowly and often take the time to comment etc., instead of just trying to tick off my bloglovin’ feed for fear of missing out on something.

  5. My mum’s a psychologist 🙂

    I am definitely someone who struggles with mindfulness – I tend to think a lot, and plan a lot. Most of that comes from anxiety – but is very good for being a mathematician.

    I found listening to audiobooks to really help my mindfulness practice. It gave me something to concentrate on that was in the moment, like in my yoga classes where I practice listening to my yoga teacher’s voice rather than spacing off into my own thoughts.

    Thank you for posting this, I hope it helps people feel more sewing positive rather than sewing guilty 🙂

    1. Thank you, Liz! I love the feeling sewing positive rather than sewing guilty! That’s a great way to put it. x

  6. I agree wholeheartedly! The sense of pride that comes with creation is not to be underestimated. Just like Nature Deficit Disorder, I think there is a a complete lack of creativity/making skills that has caused a major deficit in our society. Sewing ticks just the box to fulfill this need to make that we have gotten so far away from!

    1. Hi Carlee! I agree! That’s probably one of the reasons why sewing has become so popular in the last few years. x

  7. This is an excellent article–really helpful and thought-provoking. It also confirms a lot of my own experience. Within the last year I’ve started telling my family that I’m happier when I sew. It really is the case!

  8. Yes. Yes. Yes. All of that. I have been ill for 6 years now and came to sewing 3 years ago. When my whole world was falling apart and I didn’t know who I was, sewing became my North star. It has sustained me through bad times and good. And now, I can’t imagine my life without it.

    1. Thanks so much for your honest comment, Victoria! I’m so glad sewing has helped you so much. All the best for the future x

  9. i loved reading this – thanks so much for writing it!

    also whole heartedly agree with the comment about facebook/keeping your presence online sewing related. all facebook did was stress me out, now i barely go on there i enjoy my time online so much more.

    i was trying to tell my non-sewing friends how focussed sewing makes me, and how it’s great to get lost in a project and not really have space in your head to think about anything else, so stresses kind of melt away!

    1. Hi Rachel! Thanks for your comment. I did try to explain that to the Mr a couple of times and it’s so sweet of him to sometimes remind me and ask me whether it wouldn’t be better if I sewed a little when I feel horrible 🙂 Oh and btw, your blog name is amazing! x

  10. I just want to say that I really really wish you were MY psychologist. If my current one would even listen to the idea using my sewing as a way to fight my demons I think we’d might actually get somewhere.

    1. Hi Hedni! Thanks so much for your honesty. Sewing might not substitute psychological treatment, but it can be a really effective way of coping for some people. I always go by “do more of what makes you happy”. Once we find out what makes us feel better and what keep us going, it’s important to hold on to it and make room for it in our lives. All the best! x

  11. I am sure it also helps an individual to stress less. If someone has an activity that they love, it can make them more calm when participating in it. That can hopefully take away stress. If you can find an activity, such as sewing, it would be great to be able to do it often. That way you can hopefully remain more calm during the day!

  12. I loved reading this post and agree to all of it. I’ve recently given up my job after having my second daughter and I have felt like I’ve become only a mummy and wife whilst being at home – sewing has given me back my sense of who I am. I definitely feel more sane after having a little bit of me time. I have a good circle of friends but none of them sew so reading blogs and instagram are my way of connecting to the sewing community and finding comfort in the fact that there are other people out there who are just as obsessed with fabric, construction and fitting!

    1. Hi Dee! Thanks for sharing your experiences! I also have very few sewing friends in real life and it keeps amazing me how awesome the online sewing community can be!

    1. Hi Tine! Thanks so much! Well, now that we’re living in the same country at last (although on opposite ends) we might need to try and meet up at some point! At least we managed to match up time zones 😀

  13. This is a wonderful post and I just wanted to say that sewing has helped me cope with the grief of loosing my husband of 27 years to cancer and creating a new life for myself. Being a corporate wife, my life evolved around my husband’s career and I happily went along with it. But when he died, so did that life and it has been hard trying to find my place again in the world. Sewing online has introduced me to so many beautiful people and sewing for myself has created a sense of pride and achievement. Sewing has been the best therapy for starting my new life.

    1. Hi Marjorie! Thanks for sharing your experience so openly. You must’ve gone through some terribly difficult times and I’m glad you have found new strength and purpose in such a great creative hobby! Sewing can do wonderful things. x

  14. Wow, I needed to read this – not because I’ve been spending time sewing but because I haven’t been and I’m starting to feel like I’m losing myself with the stresses in life. I didn’t realize that you are a psychologist – allow me to sing the praises of psychologists! My daughter is currently in an residential facility for eating disorders – the story of her last couple of years would take pages and pages. Her psychologist is amazing! He is soooo good at helping her to see the reality of her thought processes, etc. She still has a lot of progress to make, as in maybe maybe home by Christmas, but she has come far in 5 weeks. Yeah, my daughter in a hospital in another STATE would be one of several reasons my stress level is quite up there…. yes, she is by far and away better off there, she was starving at home… but still…

    1. Hi Angela. Thanks for your comment. I have worked in an adolescent ED unit for a while, and I have seen many parents suffer with their kids because of this awful illness. It’s a challenge for the whole family, and as a parent you might often feel like all you can do is watch helplessly. It’s important to look after yourself as well. Maybe you can squeeze in a bit of me-time here and there. All the best for you and your family! X

  15. Absolutely. My job is all intangible things (emails, Word documents, web stuff) and one reason I love sewing is because it’s the exact opposite of that. You get to hold different textures in your hands; you can see and feel the results of your work. It’s really calming, engrossing and so different from my day job – all positives for me.

  16. Hi Charlie, this is such a great post and something very close to my heart. I suffer from PND/depression and one of the things CBT taught me is that immersing myself in a hobby can be incredibly therapeutic. It is, for all the reasons you mention and more. Although I do still find times I feel so low that even the thought of turning my machine on is too much. I don’t know whether you’re aware of Seamwork Radio? I did an interview talking about things similar to this and your post really chimed with me as a result. Oh and my name is also Charlie! Thanks for putting so accurately what I need to remind myself sometimes. Best wishes Charlie

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