Knitting can help put you in calm good spirits, offering a unique combination of meditative movement, mild stimulation and creativity, and social connection.
Remember piling up mounds of sand at the beach? Or kneading dough? There’s a special joy in using your hands. Rhythmic repetitive movements have the power to put us in the present moment, away from anxiety about the future or sadness over the past.
Nowadays we use our fingers texting and searching the internet, but it’s just not the same.
Knitting offers a unique combination of meditative movement, mild stimulation and creativity, and social connection.
A small amount of research supports the claims you’ll hear from knitters everywhere. In a British-based survey of more than 3,500 knitters worldwide, mainly women, the most frequent knitters seemed to be happier.
Meditation, we know, can lower heart rate and blood pressure. Once you’ve mastered the basic movements of knitting, you may experience the same benefits. Two oncology nurses, for example, discovered that knitting helped their colleagues manage or skip burnout.
In the British survey, frequent knitters also reported that knitting helped them keep mentally sharp. Knitting can be easy — or challenging — and you can decide what level of difficulty you need. “Sometimes my pattern is very simple, and I am able to ’Zen out,’ just focusing on the rhythm of the movement — making knitting feel like a meditation in motion. Other times, the pattern is very complex, requiring all of my focused attention to count stitches and toggle between techniques,” writes Michelle Dalbec, a yoga, mindfulness, and knitting instructor.
Especially if you’re not working, the regular stimulation can promote health. A study of people in their 70s and 80s found that knitting and quilting were about as good as reading books to avoid cognitive decline, and better than computer activities. In other research, a team found that helping a 70-year-old Alzheimer’s patient learn to knit again, by simplifying the task, made her dramatically happier.
Any hobby is a wonderful way to stay engaged. Knitters say their way has a blissful secret at its core, the motion of alternating hands and shifting your eyes from side to side. The eye motion is a powerful yoga tool for concentration that became part of a trauma recovery protocol called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) used around the world.
Enthusiasts have created several groups to share their hobby as a therapy tool. You can join groups on Facebook, such as Fine Yarn Connoisseurs. In Shichigahama, Japan, women who lost their homes to the 2001 earthquake and tsunami founded Yarn Alive. Knitting Behind Bars began in 2009, teaching prisoners to knit for charity in Maryland. Project Knitwell offers lessons in hospitals in and near Washington, D.C. In Toronto, you can get coached on correct posture while knitting to help quit smoking.
Are you helping a loved one who is sick? Knitting isn’t hard to pick up or pursue when you find yourself with time on your hands in waiting rooms. Do you need to stop hunching over your smartphone? Sit up straight and knit instead. Learning how to relax during a stressful period will help you build resilience so you don’t trigger your own stress-related illnesses. No big artistic talent or expensive tools are required — yet you can create gifts others treasure and use daily.
March 25, 2020