Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘Mindful making’

Positive Making

My 100% handmade sweater

Can you remember the first time you made something?
The sense achievement, pride in what you had accomplished. Can you remember the compliments from family and friends or if you kept it to yourself the quiet satisfaction in finishing what you had started? How long ago was that? Can you remember all the other positive making moments since then? Or do you find yourself dwelling on the errors, the projects that you never finished, the skills that you haven’t quite mastered?
This week I’ve been working on my Positive Making Timeline. This is based on the Positive Lifeline exercise used in positive psychology. It’s a technique to help us overcome that negativity bias that our brains are so fond of. Positive psychology is the science of positive aspects of human life, such as happiness, wellbeing and flourishing. It can be summarised in the words of its founder, Martin Seligman, as the
‘scientific study of optimal human functioning [that] aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive’.
It’s important to remember that positive psychology is not the same things as positive thinking. Positive psychology is an evidence-based science encompassing a variety of topics. Here’s a mind map from positivepsychology.org.uk that summarises the science.

To create a positive lifeline, take a sheet of paper, start at your birth on the left side of the paper and draw a line across the paper (or several sheets of paper depending on your age) ending with your current age now.

Between your birth and now many things have happened that have impacted you in a positive way. The aim is to think about these events or milestones and mark them on the life line.

Even the smallest of things like getting a gold star in school or someone giving you a compliment that you can remember, are important enough to be included.
Some other categories that can be put on the life line include:
• Important people in your life (put their name on the time line when you first met)
• Important happy events
• Times when you felt especially joyful in your life
• Special achievements
In adapting this exercise for a Positive Making Timeline I’ve simply narrowed the focus to my making, starting with the first thing I remember making: a simple stuffed toy in a school craft lesson, remembering the clay pots I made as a teenager, my first quilt, first handspun yarn, a particularly perfect pair of hand-knitted socks, the fair Isle hat I designed and knitted, my handwoven Shetland rainbow blanket, the handspun hand painted yarn that a fibre artist I admire complimented and my biggest achievement the 100% handmade sweater that I designed and made for my husband.

Why though? How does this help my making?
The positive lifeline exercise is designed to increase the quantity and intensity of the positive deposits in your personal memory bank, in the unconscious mind. It is helps foster a feeling of happiness and well-being which facilitates sustained Mindfulness practice, overcoming the inherent negativity bias that we all have.
My aim with my Positive Making Timeline is to foster that sense of happiness and wellbeing within my making, facilitating mindful making and as a plus boosting my making self-esteem and creativity.
I have written my Positive Making Timeline because I find writing helps me reflect and connect with the positive memories, I have had to push myself to focus on the positive and take ownership of it which is an interesting aspect to reflect on in itself. But if writing isn’t your thing there are alternatives, you could make a photo montage or record yourself reminiscing about your positive making milestones. However you choose to express yourself why not give it a go and bring more positivity into your making.

Attention and Intention

Making with mindfulness at Hooters Hall

Last week on my mindfulness course we were thinking about the word that underpins mindfulness — attention. When we practice mindfulness we are practising bringing our attention to the here and now, overcoming all the tendencies of our mind to use our autopilot and be distracted by other thoughts and the emotions we attach to them.
It’s easy to see how we can apply this to our making. We need to create time to make, time when we are not distracted by other external demands and time when we direct our focus and work towards not being distracted by our internal thoughts and emotions.
Even if the task we are doing is something we have practised so often it is a habit and does not require our full attention, something we can do with our eyes closed, we need to find a way to switch off our autopilot to achieve mindful making and all the benefits for wellbeing, creativity and our craft that come with mindfulness.
Using all of our senses can be a way to achieve this. Take the time to touch, smell, listen to, look at maybe even taste the tools and supplies that you use in your making. Before you start and as you make bring your attention to the moment using your senses to immerse yourself in the experience of making.
If you find your thoughts drifting to other things just note that it has happened and redirect your attention back to your making. It doesn’t matter how many times your mind drifts away what matters is recognising that it has happened and bringing your attention back to your making. Do this without judgement — no frustration or anger with yourself if you find it challenging to begin with. If you do feel frustrated try focusing on your breath for a moment, use it as an anchor to the present moment.
Thinking about attention led me to consider another word that I think also underpins mindful making and can undermine our attempts to direct our attention to our making — intention. I’ve mentioned previously my favourite quote from Mindful thoughts for Makers by Ellie Black.

‘If we make our work for the purpose of pleasing someone else – perhaps to have our egos stroked, or to boost our online status- this often means that we are making work that doesn’t feel true to ourselves. When we do not tap into our internal quiet, and instead are only guided by the noise of the world, we lose a vital connection between our making and our self. Making becomes a mindless activity.’

This summarises for me why I think intention is important in mindful making. If the purpose of our making is some future, hypothetical reward tenuously connected to the act of making our mind consciously or subconsciously will be focused on something other than our making.
Our intent may also affect our creative choices — choosing a yarn colour that looks good on Instagram, making something of a size that’s easier to photograph or fits with a popular hashing, making choices based on other peoples expectations. For me that leads to a creative dead end and nagging dissatisfaction with my making.
Practising mindful making; focusing our attention with intention leads to a more intimate relationship with our making, there’s no one and nothing else in the relationship, and that can be inspiring — freeing our creativity.

Three a day – the benefits of keeping a positivity journal

Blue skies and clover in the meditation meadow

Can you list three things that went well for you today?

Now, can you list three things that went well for you every day of the past week?

Some days it can be a challenge to list even one positive experience but that’s not because your life is a black pit of never-ending negativity. It’s because our brains are pre disposed to remember all the bad experiences. We have an inbuilt negativity bias. There’s a good evolutionary reason for this, constantly scanning our environment for threats kept us alive and our brains evolved to minimise threat, which means our brains spend much more time focusing on the negative rather than the positive.
Think about those times you made a mistake in your making, even though you solved the problem and finished the project I bet you were still focused on that negative mistake, rather than the positive of having the skill to fix it or to complete the project despite the mistake.
Martin Seligman credited as being the ‘Father of Positive Psychology’ conducted research into overcoming the negativity bias inherent in all of us. Every day for a week participant were asked to write down 3 things that went well each day and an explanation for why they went well.
After one-week participants were found to be 2% happier than before. It didn’t end there though, happiness kept increasing from 5% at one month to 9% more happiness at 6 months. The participants were only told to keep a positivity journal for 1 week but they found the exercise so beneficial they continued doing it.
Apart from our innate negativity bias the brain has another unhelpful mode of operation that limits our experience of happiness: the ability to adapt. We very quickly get used to the things we have or that occur in our life.
Think about the last time you acquired some new tools or supplies for your making. It probably made you happy but how long did that happiness last? Hours, a day, a week? How long before your appreciation of it faded and it was just another tool or part of your ever-increasing stash of supplies?
The answer may vary but the reason for the happiness and fading of that feeling is the same. While you were consciously thinking about and therefore experiencing gratitude for your new tool or supply you automatically feel happy. Appreciation creates happiness – automatically.
So, taking the time to write down 3 good things that have happened that day, or 3 things that you have to be grateful for, in as much detail as possible, imprints these positives more deeply on the brain, creating neural pathways of gratitude and appreciation.
Research has shown positive emotions don’t just make you feel good in the present but also increase positive emotions in the future. Creating a positive upward spiral in your mood and happiness that will bring positivity into your making increasing your satisfaction and creativity as you train your brain to stop focusing on the negative and appreciate all of the positives.

Tips for keeping a Positivity Journal

  1. You don’t need fancy stationery you can keep a journal on your phone. Either use a notes app or simply text or email your positive experiences to yourself each day.
  2. You can list more than 3 things
  3. If you find it easier to list negative things this is your negativity bias in action, challenge it and day by day it will be easier to find 3 positives.
  4. Completing your positivity journal just before bed can be helpful because what we focus on before sleep continues to be processed by our minds as we sleep.
  5. Write minimum of 3 positives everyday – you’re getting your brain on a strict training program and need to stick to it to get results.
  6. Try not to write the same things – you have more positives in your life than you think. It’s just that pesky negativity bias is hiding them from you.