Knitting has many health benefits. While most people consider it the perfect hobby to create early Christmas presents (such as toys, sweaters, bonnets, and gloves), its repetitive movements serve as an exercise for the hands’ joints and muscles. In addition, knitting is also a way to kill boredom.
The recent years have shown more men and women getting involved in knitting (and crocheting). The craft that many consider for “women only” is now becoming a trend in men. This is after neurologists discovered the different mental health benefits of knitting: it helps improve one’s cognitive skills, moods, and even social outlook.
The Magnificent Health Benefits Of Knitting
Knitting and Cognitive Development
According to a study by Yonas Geda, the associated professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, craft enthusiasts, together with bookworms, video gamers, and hobbyists, have decreased chances of acquiring mild cognitive impairments. Their memory also improved, decreasing the possibility suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
ENHANCES THINKING SKILLS
One of the mental health benefits of knitting is that it supports the brain neural pathway’s development. This enhances thinking skills, which increases one’s cognitive development. It improves pattern recognition and hand-to-eye coordination. Once the mind engages in the knitting process, it develops the knitter’s dexterity and focus.
KEEPS YOUR BRAIN ACTIVE
In another research conducted on crafting, neuroscientists saw how doing complex knitting patterns shows similar cognitive improvement as solving puzzles, crosswords, and Sudoku. Before such studies were conducted, neuroscientists believed that the brain was a static organ.
At the age of 20, the brain is fully developed. It is also at this age that it would start losing its power. However, with the recent research findings on knitting and other craft activities, they discovered that the brain is flexible and adaptable to its environment. Even at an old age, it can still develop. This boosted knitting activities as mental health experts started recommending and using it in their therapy sessions.
At present, there are 35 million people in the world suffering from dementia. It is expected that by 2050, this number will triple. This is why neuroscientists are searching for ways to protect the brain from cognitive impairments. By engaging in knitting and other craft activities, it is possible to avoid this mental health problem.
Knitting and Moods
KNITTING KEEPS YOU CALM AND HAPPY
Knitting, and other craft activities, are not only blocking mechanisms for cognitive impairment. More studies show additional mental health benefits of knitting such as how it contributed to making people happier and calmer.
A study published in the February 2013 issue of the British Journal of Occupational Therapy revealed the relationship between knitting frequency and feeling calm and happy. Neuroscientist involved in the study discovered how knitting positively affected the knitters’ cognitive function. It helped them sort out problems and solutions easier.
DISTRACTION FROM PAIN
Knitting serves as a distraction from pain. It refocuses a person’s attention from the pain they feel to completing a knitting project’s complex patterns.
Pain originates in the brain, not in weariness of the body’s joints and muscles. The body only sends signals to the brain, which results to the pain’s manifestation. However, the feeling of pain worsens if a person is bored, lonely, or unhappy. It leaves the brain unoccupied except for the signals the body delivers. After this finding, more UK clinics have included knitting in therapies for those with depression.
KNITTING ACTS AS A NATURAL ANTI-DEPRESSANT
Last March 2014, CNN released a story of Sarah Huerta, a woman who was once diagnosed with post-traumatic disorder and is presently involved in many craft projects, especially knitting. After her brother’s death, she started having panic attacks that caused her inability to hold a job. She also felt anxious going out of the house and even hated getting in cars. To help her out, her husband encouraged her to knit.
The idea of knitting sounded silly to Huerta at first, especially since she couldn’t keep her hands still. However, as she did knitting projects, she found herself worrying less about any of her family members and friends getting into a catastrophic event. She also found herself less anxious and depressed. After surviving this mental problem, she now encourages others to get involved in knitting.
Knitting does more than keeping the brain preoccupied. One of the mental health benefits of knitting is that it acts as a natural anti-depressant.
As a natural anti-depressant, the reward center in the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter believed by scientists to help identify the actions that allow species to survive. Examples of these actions are eating and drinking.
Dopamine is released when a person does something pleasurable. As the body develops, the brain easily releases dopamine even when a person is doing something as simple as playing puzzle games and knitting.
Dopamine is the natural anti-depressant. In a study published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81 percent of 3,500 participants with depression displayed a change in attitude after knitting. More than half were reported to feel very happy, and this went beyond the knitting process. This pleasure became more apparent after finishing projects and displaying them on their walls.
The knitters even became happier after receiving praises from loved ones that led them to knit more. It improved their self-efficacy, which is a strong key to overcoming challenges and disappointments.
Depression is a trigger for suicide and violence. As an anti-depression activity, knitting is also encouraged among the youth.
Knitting and Relaxation
KNITTING WAS SAID TO BE THE NEW YOGA!
Yoga is a discipline, which balances breathing and movements. It allows the person to meditate after focusing only on his movements while breathing deeply.
Knitting, according to studies conducted by neurologists, also allows the person to be in a meditative-like state. As one of the mental health benefits of knitting, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine in Massachusetts General Hospital explains that the repeated movement in knitting relaxes the body, which counterbalances the stress.
Stress is formed after the brain fails to differentiate two events that trigger anxiety. One example is an upcoming meeting with a boss, and a wild animal’s attack. This leaves the body in a constant state of stress after its inability to set the two events apart.
The repetitive knitting movements activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps a person relax. It lowers blood pressure rates, drops stress hormones, and slows down breathing. It quiets the mind from any fear and defense responses.
KNITTING IS CONSIDERED AN ACTIVE MEDITATION
It helps you to focus only in its process. You become so focused that everything else seems to disappear. This phenomenon was first described by Psychologist Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi and called it the flow effect.
According to Csiksentmihalyi, repeating a process for just a few minutes will get you absorbed in the activity, blocking everything else around you. In his TED talk last 2004, he explained how getting involved in any creative activity helps you to live a fuller life. It encourages you to see possibilities and eliminates any doubts. You begin to see yourself as part of a bigger a picture and release any selfless thought.
He further explained the flow effect by associating it to the brain’s processing information. As the brain processes only a certain amount of information at a time, it becomes too preoccupied that it blocks everything else around it.
In a 2007 paper entitled The Neurological Basis of Occupation, authors Victoria Schindler and Sharon Gutman state that patients can use creative activities to elicit flow. It is one of the non-pharmaceutical health benefits of knitting. It regulates emotions that controls anger and prevents rational thinking.
Knitting and Social Engagements
One of the health benefits of knitting can be found in the knitter’s social activities. As you involve yourself in groups of knitters, you also gain a social outlet — one of the most important elements in maintaining mental health.
Being part of a group allows you to express yourself, feel more charitable, and have a sense of productiveness. You are able to open yourself more and learn to interact better. You also take note of the group’s impact in your life and your ability to live well.
Discovering the health benefits of knitting has led many clinics to include it in their therapy sessions. Even schools find this activity to benefit children and teenagers, especially how they handle stress. If you want to relax from work or want something to do during your free time, then knitting is a great activity to try.