Health Benefits of Knitting and Crocheting
Various articles1 and books2 state that knitting and crocheting are good for your health and may actually help improve your mind, mood and body. As a matter of fact it is a proven scientific fact that knitting is therapeutic and has been called the “new yoga”. According to Betsan Corkhill’s3 new book “Knit for Health and Wellness”4 and other experts dealing with health issues knitting may be used as an effective tool against some of the below mentioned conditions:
5. Low confidence and self esteem
6. Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, binge eating)
8. Dementia/cognitive impairment/Alzheimer’s
Ad 1) According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi5 the reason why knitting helps to reduce stress is that is has effects similar to that of meditation. The repetitive motions of knitting activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which quiets that “fight or flight” response. Csikszentmihalyi has described the phenomenon as flow: a few moments in time when you are completely absorbed by an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Flow, Csikszentmihalyi says, is the secret to happiness – a statement he supports with decades of research. 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 inflammation6.
Dr Barry Jacobs of Princeton University7 further found that animals who perform repetitive motions trigger a release of serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with calmness and well-being. This could explain why most of devoted knitters swear by knitting as a de-stresser: doing it may cause a spurt of serotonin!
For English physiotherapist Betsan Corkhill, she saw the positive results of knitting in her patients. Those who had been sluggish, stressed and depressed were able to soothe themselves through knitting. The more they knitted, the less worried and fearful they became8.
Ad 2) According to Corkhill “pain originates in the brain not in muscles and joints”, and “the brain has to pay attention to signals coming up from the body. If you are lonely or bored or unhappy, you’ll experience more pain than if you’re socially active and occupied and that’s very well accepted.” As a result of her work, which she presented at an Annual Meeting of the British Pain Society, more pain clinics in the U.K. are using knitting therapeutically9.
Ad 3) Betsan Corkhill set up Stitchlinks, a hub for therapeutic knitting, nine years ago. In 2010 Stichlinks produced a survey with Cardiff University to discover how knitting affected the mental and social wellbeing of individuals. Based upon the responses received from the respondents the majority said that knitting improved their mood, while 81% of respondents with depression claimed that knitting made them happier10.
Ad 4) Knitting can be used to combat loneliness when forced to stay home due to illness because knitting gives you something productive to do with your time.
Ad 5) According to Corkhill learning to knit also encourages people with low confidence to begin to make decisions and take risks. If you make a mistake it’s easy to correct it in knitting...You could go back and do it again, or you could decide to learn to live with your mistake; either way it’s a great life skill. Being more adaptable to change increases resilience and the ability to deal with all the stuff that life throws at us11.
Ad 6) A 2009 study published in the journal “Eating and Weight Disorders”12 showed that when 38 women with anorexia nervosa were taught to knit and given free access to knitting supplies, they reported significant improvements. An impressive 74 per cent said knitting lessened their fears and kept them from ruminating about their eating disorders13.
Ad 7) In 2010, two Georgetown oncology nurses – stressed out by their jobs and graduate school – decided to use Project Knitwell for their thesis research wondering whether knitting might mitigate some of the bournout or “compassion fatigue” these nurses experienced. The results were significant as everyone’s burnout scores improved significantly especially in relation to those nurses who were the most burned out before the study14.
Ad 8) Yonas Geda, associate professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona15, published a study in the Spring 2011 edition of “The Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences” that validated crafters of all stripes. His research showed that people who engaged their minds by reading book, playing games or crafting had a decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment, a possible precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. “The study suggests that engaging in certain types of mentally stimulating acts,” Geda says, “is associated with decreased risk of cognitive impairment.” The study further demonstrated that using the brain might prevent losing it16.
Knit for Health & Wellness “how to knit a flexible mind and more”
FlatBear Publishing (8 Jun. 2014)
Knitting Magazine November 2014, Issue J35 page 44-46
2 Knit for Health & Wellness, see bibliography
3 Betsan Corkhill, English Physiotherapist and founder of Stichlinks, a hub for therapeutic knitting, http://www.womansweekly.com/uncategorized/knitting-interview-betsan-corkhill-of-stitchlinks-12847/
4 Knit for Health & wellness, see bibliography
5 Hungarian psychologist (1934- ). He created the psychological concept of flow, a highly focused mental state. He is the distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University. Former head of the department at the university of Chicago and of the department of sociology and anthropology at Lake Forest Graduate, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mihaly_Csikszentmihalyi
10 Knitting Magazine, Issue J35, p. 44-46
11 How to knit a flexible mind, see bibliography