Monthly Archives: March 2014

Creative Activity Distracts The Brain (In A Beneficial Way)

I think this is incredibly fascinating.

Jacque Wilson’s article is called “This is Your Brain on Knitting,” but the observations extend beyond just knitting, of course.

Crafting can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression or chronic pain, experts say. It may also ease stress, increase happiness and protect the brain from damage caused by aging. […]
Our nervous system is only capable of processing a certain amount of information at a time, [psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ] explains. That’s why you can’t listen and understand two people who are talking to you at once. So when someone starts creating, his existence outside that activity becomes “temporarily suspended.”
“He doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels, or his problems at home. He can’t feel if he’s hungry or tired. His body disappears.”
The effects of flow are similar to those of meditation, says occupational therapist Victoria Schindler. Science has shown meditation can, among other things, reduce stress and fight inflammation.
Our bodies are in a constant state of stress because our brain can’t tell the difference between an upcoming meeting with the boss and an upcoming bear attack, Schindler says. The repetitive motions of knitting, for example, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which quiets that “fight or flight” response.

And this is why I’ve become so appreciative of fibre arts in the last few years. When I’m spinning or knitting, I’m focusing on something not-me. I distract my brain from observing how achy my muscles are, the pain in my joints, the effort it takes to think through a problem. Writing is hard on my brain (no, I know everyone says that, but it’s particularly hard for me, because I’m thinking through a fibro fog), and cello asks a lot of my back and hands, which aren’t always up to the task. I used to meditate a lot, but it started causing anxiety (ironic, that) because I couldn’t quell the “I should be doing something productive now instead of just sitting here” feeling. (Fibro has done a real number on my sense of self-worth as relates to productivity, let me tell you. Do I accept that my output is necessarily lower? Yes. Do I not worry about it? I worry about it all the time.)

The hardest thing about knitting is the decision paralysis that grips me while starting a new project. I can’t just grab a nice yarn and start something randomly; I have to calculate yardage and ask myself if I’ll actually use the finished product (or if I know someone who can/will), think over the yarn’s construction and figure out if it’s appropriate for the item, and so forth. And then I have to grapple with the whole “but what if I do it wrong?” panic. Once I’ve started, things settle down, but even working through those questions comes very close to fight-or-flight for me. It’s not limited to knitting, either; it’s the same with fibre. There is a lovely braid of dyed Polwarth/silk blend that Ceri bought for me. Is it gorgeous? Yes! Will I love spinning it? Yes! Have I spun it? No, because what if I spin it wrong somehow? What if I make pretty yarn that is utterly unusable for anything I might ever want to make? What if I chain-ply it and decide after it’s done that I should have done a traditional three-ply, or even a two-ply?

The entire article is interesting to read and makes several observations about crafting in general and its connection to dopamine release, the use of leisure activities/crafting in therapy, and the benefits of stimulating several areas of the brain simultaneously.

In general, this is what a lot of crafters — knitters, weavers, painters, miniature railroaders, people who build RC aircraft — already know on a subconscious level. It’s calming, it makes you feel good when you complete something, and it’s an easy way to give your brain a break. It’s just interesting to read about it in more scientific terms, and to see what therapists and doctors have to say about it.

Spring Concert Announcement!

We’re presenting our spring concert this Saturday evening! This one really crept up on me, because I had to take a month off from cello and orchestra for several reasons. But suddenly, it’s concert time!

This concert’s theme is Musical Gems:

    Mother Goose Suite – Ravel
    S̩r̩nade Op 7 РR. Strauss
    Concerto grosso op. 6 no. 1 – Handel
    Symphony no. 40 in G minor – Mozart

It is also dedicated to George, the eldest member of our cello section, who passed away two weeks ago. He was one of the original founding members of the orchestra, and a fascinating, philosophical man with a very dry sense of humour. He will be missed.

The concert is taking place at 7:30 PM on Saturday 29 March 2014 at Valois United, our orchestra’s home, which is at 70 Belmont Ave (corner King) in Pointe-Claire. Admission is $10, free for children 18 and under. The concerts usually last just about two hours, including the refreshment break. There is a map as well as public transport info on the church website. Children of all ages are always very welcome.

In Which She Tries Not To Laugh

Owlet is sick. She’d been moody and prone to bursting into tears over tiny things in the latter half of last week, but Friday she manifested a full-blown, terrible cold. Friday bedtime and Saturday nap were awful experiences for everyone. She was so sick she just moaned and screamed for ages, stuck in that cycle that toddlers can’t break sometimes, and once she was asleep Friday night she woke up pretty much every hour moaning, “Noses running, noses running.” Poor bunny.

Then, of course, the clocks went back on Saturday night. She’s old enough now that we don’t have to spend the week leading up to a time change shifting the schedule by ten minutes every day to be in line with the new settings. Still, the first nap of Daylight Savings Time is always tricky. We put Owlet to bed, and she kept getting up. (I would like to blame the time shift for this, but she does it often.) I’d put her back to bed four times, and told Sparky to be quiet half a dozen times. I heard a bang from her room, then silence. Maybe she just whacked her hand into the wall while turning over, I thought. It was quiet for a little while longer, and then bang again; it sounded like she was hitting a drawer or something. I opened her door with a little more power than I should have, because I was getting cross with both kids… and there she was, sitting on her little potty, falling asleep with her head nodding to the side, where it was hitting the side of her dresser.

I picked her up, pulled up her leggings, and tucked her into bed. I don’t think she even woke up. It was all I could do not to laugh; she was so determined not to sleep, and she looked so funny.

It was adorable. I still feel bad for her, though; she’s just knackered by this horrible cold, coughing so hard that she sounds like her lungs are being ripped out by the roots, and while she’s getting a bit better, I suspect she’ll be home on Monday, too.

March Break Date

I’ve been struggling with a really bad bout of depression this past week, so I’ve been pretty quiet. Most of the time I’m fighting bursting into tears for no apparent reason, and just feeling really, deeply sad.

I handed in a project yesterday, and today Sparky and I went out on a date day, as it’s his March break week. We dropped off a bag of cloth diapers I sold, I deposited my paycheque (yet again, gone as soon as it hit my account — someday I will be able to enjoy it being there for more than a minute or two), and then I took him to our bookstore, ostensibly to pick up the next book in a series we’re reading together, but my ulterior motive was the 20% off Lego sale they were running. I thought his eyes were going to fall out of his head when he read the poster. So since I’d encouraged him to bring the twenty dollars he’d saved up, he had a $25 gift card, and he had a $10 reward for one hundred practice sessions of cello (we keep track!), he walked out with two books, one each from a series he’s reading, and two Lego kits.

Then we went into the adjacent Starbucks and I bought him a hot chocolate and a Rice Krispie square, and he read one of his new books while having his treat. Seeing him so happy was really nice.

I had a wonderful moment while we were in the bookstore. We’d gone through the Lego and the younger chapter book section, and had ended up in the 9-12 area. We were both sitting on the floor, our coats open, and he was reading aloud to me from one of the books he had chosen. I sat there, smiling at him, not really hearing what he was reading — he was reading way too quickly, so I couldn’t understand the individual words. He does that when he’s super excited and eager to share something, and usually I rein him in, but this time I didn’t worry about it. I just listened to his voice, and watched him bend over the hardcover book, holding it open with one hand and gesturing with the other as he read aloud to me. I didn’t have to worry about rushing him anywhere since we had the whole day together, and I didn’t feel like nagging him about his reading. I just enjoyed sitting there with my son, listening to him read a book aloud to me, both of us being happy about being there together. It was a very special moment, and I have no idea how long we sat there, to be honest. I only suggested we move on when another mum and her daughter came along and I felt like we were in their way. I wish we had more time for things like this together.