Bipolar and Hobbies
Last weekend I started crocheting an afghan. It’s not the kind of thing I normally do, since I prefer knitting, but I have boxes and bags of leftover balls of yarn and they need to be used up – in other words, my husband is tired of them taking up all the storage space in the living room.
I don't have a cute, warm blanket to curl up under on the sofa, so a nice thick throw is the perfect use for it all. I spent some time coordinating the right combination of bright jewel tones, interspersed with white stripes, that will liven up my monochromatic and vaguely mid-century modern living room.
It’s nothing fancy, this project – some bright colors in wavy stripes, a simple combination of three basic crochet stitches that anyone can learn (I taught myself from a book when I was 8). There are no complicated instructions; the stitch pattern is easily memorized and requires no great skill.
It will probably take a few months, with various knitting projects peppered in between rows, to finish, and I’m sure my garden will start taking time away from it when the weather starts to improve. But I think I’ll get much more from this blanket than just the warmth it will provide and the satisfaction of making something useful.
There’s been so much written about the positive effects of hobbies on those with mental illness, and the many ways to reap those benefits. Arts and crafts are often used as therapeutic tools, as ways to express ideas that might otherwise be too complex or painful to put into words.
Listening to music has been shown to be relaxing and can help to induce sleep; playing a musical instrument has powerful cognitive benefits. Outdoor hobbies such as sports or gardening have countless upsides, not the least of which are the exercise and exposure to daylight that they provide.
And my afghan? It will require time and patience. I’ll have to keep coming back to it, week in and week out, and it will push me to persevere even when the new-project excitement wears off. I’ll get to watch it grow, and I’ll have something to keep me busy in the evenings. And according to some studies, it will even help cut my risk of developing dementia later in life by as much as half. Not too shabby.