During the Pandemic people have reported a sense of depletion. Not quite depression, but a feeling nonetheless of being depleted. I guess this comes from the major changes in our daily lives, lack of freedom, and limited social outings.
I don't know about you, but my biggest social events these days are when I go to the grocery store or post office.
So, having a coping mechanism for these sorts of feelings can be incredibly helpful in getting through these trying times.
We need something that occupies our attention (which changes our thought patterns), is constructive with our time, and can also bring about feelings of achievement and productivity.
That's where zen stitching can be so beneficial.
So, why is stitching so Zen you ask?
Now, whilst I am not a doctor or a psychiatrist, I have read plenty of literature that supports my idea that stitching can be good for us...
Stitching is a form of active meditation.
1. Active Meditation
Stitching and other hand crafts have been called ‘active meditation’, a process where the hands are busy, yet the mind is free to wander. Repetition is a key component of relaxing, because it brings us into the present moment whilst we focus on the task at hand, and away from distracting thoughts about the past or the future. When stitching, meditation and mindfulness are the side product and not the goal, yet we can still reap the same benefits.
Scientifically, meditation offers us the ability to calm down our fight or flight response (also known as stress) that many of us experience during our lives at some stage, particularly now during these crazy times of COVID, when something as innocent as watching the TV or scrolling through instagram can be filled with stressful scenes and information.
At a physiological level, meditation calms the nervous system which in turn shrinks the size of the amygdala. A Harvard study showed that both size and activity of the amygdala was reduced over a 8 week meditation program. The physical size of that part of the brain changed due to meditation! When the amygdala shrinks, this naturally allows us to switch on the rational part of our brain. This means when faced with a stressful situation we can calmly address the problem rather than needing to run away, or fight. 
Learning to let go of the desired outcome is where the magic is.
2. The Art of Letting Go
Having a sewing project that’s completely under our own control can start to teach us that sometimes, there’s no predicting when something will veer off plan. As we have all experienced, despite careful planning, there is always the chance that something will go wrong.
We are working with machines, thread, and fabric that may let us down, or at least cause a hiccup in the creative process. Threads can snap or get tangled in the machine, and the machine itself can break down one day only to make a miraculous recovery the next. These are the small frustrations we deal with, but they’re also the things that teach us patience. 
Once we understand that not everything is under our control, we’ll see a significant increase in happiness. That’s the true therapeutic benefit of sewing skills — knowing when to let go and when to try again.
Letting go means surrendering control. It means accepting that there are going to be outcomes you can't predict and sometimes, this is where the magic happens. 
3. Improves Focus and concentration
Hand sewing helps us focus on a single task, thereby improving our concentration.
This skill can then be applied to all areas of our lives, enabling faster comprehension. Better focus helps improve memory, and enables us to ignore meaningless and irrelevant thoughts.
Improved focus can assist with maintaining a healthy brain as we age, and minimize our ‘forgetful moments’.
Stitching can help us learn how to improvise
4. Learning to improvise
Improvise is a word we associate with jazz and performance, but because of the inherent unpredictability of sewing, it can also be used to describe the sewing process. Improvising teaches us how to plan for the random surprises life throws our way. Or, rather than plan for unforeseen circumstances, sewing actually teaches us to improvise.
Improvisation is of paramount importance for enabling us to cope with our everyday environment and its contingencies. It is also something we value highly as an artistic achievement in music, dance and theatre.
Improvisation is the activity of making or doing something not planned beforehand, using whatever can be found. Quite often the response is creative and helps us break out of traditional methods of thinking and problem solving. This process of brainstorming opens up the minds of the people involved to new, unexpected and possibly useful ideas. The colloquial term for this is "thinking outside the box." 
Solving problems is a great way to strengthen our thinking patterns, and when the solutions work, it builds our self esteem too.
Stitching builds self esteem
5. Builds Self-Esteem
As our sewing and problem solving skills improve, so does the overall quality of our projects. And that feeling of accomplishment is enhanced by a flood of dopamine through the body (the feel good neurotransmitter).
And, the best thing that will really boost your self-esteem is the knowledge that your hands can create something that’s not only beautiful but also useful.
When you strengthen your self esteem this can reflect on other areas of your life including:
Being assertive in expressing your needs and opinions.
Being confident in your ability to make decisions.
The ability to form secure and honest relationships — and less likely to stay in unhealthy ones.
Realistic in setting expectations and less likely to be overly critical of yourself and others.
Sewing can help us with our time management skills
6. Time management
Sewing also teaches us time and project management because we have to break the project into bite size pieces in order to complete it. With this in mind we also have to schedule (put aside) time in our day in order to get it completed.
Good time management allows you to accomplish more in a shorter period of time, which leads to more free time (or more making time if you’re like me). Good time management lowers your stress, and helps you focus, which leads to more sewing success. Each benefit of time management improves all other aspects of your life (such as self esteem, concentration and focus, and leads to less stress).
Whether we have mended a pair of jeans for ourselves or personalized gift for a friend, the completion of the task feels beyond amazing.
Stitching can bring us a sense of accomplishment
7. Feeling a Sense of Accomplishment
The best thing about having a creative hobby is the rush you get out of seeing the result of your work! (Another dopamine hit)
Achievements are the building blocks that enable us to construct a sense of ourselves as a success. Our achievements that matter most combine to form a version of success that has meaning and substance for us.
When we have a feeling of accomplishment we're not only happy and satisfied, we feel better about who we are and what we do. And this carries over into other parts of our life. We want that sense of accomplishment to continue; and we repeat the actions that led to our successes. 
Being in a sewing community provides support and encouragement
8. Being a Part of a Community
The best thing about sewing is being part of a community. Sewing circles have existed over the ages and provided the opportunity for women to get together and create, or mend clothes, whilst enjoying the company of others.
Community provides the opportunity to support one another, interact, share experiences and our modern life struggles. Having this open bond with others is what builds valuable relationships, and gives us a deeper sense of belonging. Communities are also rich in resources and provides the opportunity to learn new things and share with others.
These days the internet is full to the brim of sewing forums for a whole range of different categories. There are sewing communities that focus on vintage or historically accurate clothing, cosplay communities, and many others. And if you’re unable to find exactly what you’re looking for, you can always start a new group, online or in real life. 
9. Gaining Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is the ability to push yourself forward, stay motivated, and take action, regardless of how you're feeling, physically or emotionally.
One of the best things about sewing is that it helps us develop better self-discipline. Especially if we have a day job, or other time commitments, sewing is a hobby we need to make time for. Finding ways to make time include waking up earlier or scheduling an hour or two in the evening.
Self-discipline is the ability to do what you should be doing. Self-discipline often means putting off your immediate comfort or wishes in favor of long term success. In “The Chimp Paradox,” Dr. Steve Peters explains we’re already the people we wish to be. Our emotional mind simply stops us from behaving how we need to achieve our ideal state. Self-discipline gives us the ability to overcome our emotional mind by moving forward with physical action.
Developing self discipline is proven to help with achieving long term goals, decreasing anxiety (and other negative emotions), increase physical health, have a positive impact on our relationships, become more resilient, and make us feel better.
And most importantly, during the pandemic sewing can keep our days on track and give us focus even if we don’t have a traditional job.
Stitching can bring our wild ideas to life.
10. Nurturing our Creativity
One of the greatest benefits of sewing is that we have an outlet for our creativity. We get to choose everything about the pieces we make, from the fabric and thread to the design, and even down to the buttons or zippers.
And once we get the hang of sewing, we can take a bigger part in the design itself.
We can make our wildest ideas come to life. That’s a lot of creative freedom most of us don’t typically get at our day jobs. And that is exactly why sewing is such a great hobby.
Since the COVID shut down, I have been making a point of stitching on a regular basis. I have realised that when I get stressed out, all I need to do is simply sit and stitch for a little while and I notice the tension ease and a sense of calm and peacefulness floods through me.
The best thing is not only do I feel better, and sleep peacefully, but my clothes are well mended too!