Everyone has their own way of dealing with life, love, and loss, but certain activities can help to relax the body and rid the mind of anxious thoughts.
Repetitive motions, like those used to knit or make jewelry, can soothe anxiety. Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, recommends the repetition of a word, sound, phrase, muscular activity to elicit your body’s relaxation response. This reaction allows a lower heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.
Sarah Ford, a 20-year-old student at St. Bonaventure University, began making jewelry as a hobby. She quickly found the calming properties that her interest could provide.
“Jewelry making quickly changed from a hobby to a time to clear my head and relax,” she said. “The creative process of designing patterns helps me to clear my head and focus on something easy and repetitive.”
Repeating movements also allows the brain to focus on returning to that movement rather than revisiting intruding or destructive emotions.
Michele Ross, a part-time employee at a community college and full-time mother and wife, crochets to destress between working and taking care of her three-year-old daughter.
“I usually try and work on something to wind down for the night and usually go to bed afterwards,” she said.
Some experts believe that activities with repetitive motions can have the same effects on the brain as meditation.
According to Patricia Monaghan and Eleanor Viereck, authors of Meditation – The Complete Guide, “any activity that demands focus and involves some degree of repetitive activity lowers brain-wave frequency and therefore produces the effects of meditation.”
Focusing on a hobby that involves repetitive movements can steer the mind away from those less-than-desirable thoughts. Finishing a project will replace unwanted feelings with feelings of triumph and success.
“My personal favorite part of the experience is not just the designing, but the feelings of accomplishment when I can see my feelings and ideas in my finished work,” Ford said. “It can turn any feelings into a piece of art.”
Hannah Gordon, a freshman at SBU, uses her instruments to illicit a calming sensation during times of increased stress.
“Depending on the type of stress I’m feeling I reach for my guitar, drum pad or keyboard,” she said. If I’m playing on my drum pad, I practice my rudiments, which allows my mind to just go numb for a while because most of the effort is just muscle memory.”
Gordon said playing and listening to a repetitive rhythm helps her anger or anxiety to subside, allowing her to think clearly.
“If I’m upset about something, I go for my acoustic guitar. I play rhythms with G, Em, D, and Am chords,” she said. “I usually sit on my bed, close my eyes and play it over and over again, completely tuning out the world around me.”
The soothing sounds of music combined with your own creativity provides a healthy outlet for your emotions.
“When I was really young—before I played any instruments—I wrote poetry and lyrics to express myself and relax,” Gordon said. “Ever since I started playing music, I write more poetry, but I have always gone to an instrument to de-stress and calm down.”
Our bodies have the ability to calm itself down physically and emotionally. Substitute self-medication with healthy self-expression.