Stuck at home I don’t always want to chat with friends and family or listen to any more news, podcasts or watch TV drama or read a book. Yet I want to be taken out of myself. I want to be elsewhere and with my own thoughts at the same time.
Being engaged in an activity that uses our hands is recognised as having therapeutic benefits. During the privations of Covid-19 lockdowns making and baking have become popular. You can find numerous examples of famous faces presenting the results on social media. For example, the Olympic diver Tom Daley says he took up knitting to help him relax and he has knitted clothes for his husband and child. Finding no knitting patterns for men’s swimwear he adapted a pattern for bikini bottoms and produced a pair of crocheted speedos for himself.
There is also a therapeutic effect when we watch someone else using their hands. Think about the close-ups on hands in cooking programmes. Might this satisfaction in watching be something to do with mirror neurones. Discovered in the 1990s, mirror neurones fire in the brain of observers whilst watching or listening to another person performing an activity. The neurones that fire in the brain of the person performing the activity are mirrored in the observer. That is, the same neurones fire in the brain of the observer. It seems we can experience what another is experiencing at the same time. This has led to research investigating the role of mirror neurones in how empathy operates and how we learn.
Whilst watching the gardener raking the Zen garden in this video clip, I find I can sense his body movements, almost feel the weight of the rake and the resistance and flow of the gravel. And then I watch it again. I can be there in that garden and at the same time sitting at home relaxing into my own thoughts and imagination.
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy is a collective of experienced psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors working with a range of client groups, including fellow therapists and health professionals. If you would like more information, or an informal discussion please get in touch. Online therapy is available.