You may be familiar with the beautiful geometric patterns of sashiko stitching and you have probably seen many beautifully mended pairs of jeans. And you most likely know that sashiko is a great way to combine beauty and function to repair your clothes.
But did you know that an additional benefit is that it can be calming to sit down and do some sashiko stitching?
The two major benefits of Sashiko I noticed in my life
I first noticed this a couple of years ago. Those were crazy days when I would rush around from one commitment to the next, often with a lot of driving between destinations. I was teaching a number of different textile courses and I had to prepare a stitching sampler for an upcoming class.
Somehow I had to find the time to calmly sit and stitch.
This was proving to be quite tricky with the number of commitments I had. With looming deadlines, I had no choice but to make some time to sew the sampler.
It surprised me that I started to look forward to the moments in my day when I could simply sit and stitch. Eventually I did finish the sampler of sashiko stitches. What I learned from that experience was far greater than the act of sewing. It made me realise that not only was I creating something beautiful with my hands, but I was also having a positive impact on my mental state of mind too.
When I made time to stitch, my days flowed more smoothly, and I didnt get stressed by small setbacks in my daily life. I even found that it helped me sleep soundly at night. Sounds crazy!?
So I did some research to find out why.
Does Sashiko really have these benefits? Why?
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.
When we generally respond to a stressful situation:
The amygdala hijacks the brain,
This means that our brain is not functioning rationally or effectively, and our body goes into fight or flight mode. The amygdala is a part of our brain that performs a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making and emotional responses including fear and anxiety.
This means that blood is rushing to all our major muscle groups and energy is being diverted away from our productive system, our immune system and our digestive system.
All our energy goes into survival mode, and all we can think about is what is facing us at the moment.
There is no room for rational thinking.
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.
By now, if you haven't started already, you are probably curious to see what would happen if you did some sashiko stitching. Would you get the same results that I have shared with you?
Would it be possible from the simple act of mending that you would get:
And finally sleep peacefully
But how do you make a start?
Click here to watch how to mend your jeans using sashiko stitching
Click here for 7 tips to find mindful moments amidst the chaos of our lives.
Artist Liz Kettle discusses Active Meditation
Why Does Crafting help with Anxiety?