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Surprising Health Benefits of Knitting

Updated on June 18, 2018
Sara Stietz profile image

Sara is the proud mama of two rabbits, Walter and Eleanor, Helga the cat, and a dog named Dante.

Knitting my latest nephews blanket over top of him
Knitting my latest nephews blanket over top of him

Knitting Your Way To A Healthier You

Are you thinking of taking up knitting? The benefits of this hobby are greater than the single sock born of three weeks work. Research is suggesting that yarn art, such as knitting and crocheting, has therapeutic benefits for people of all walks of life. Stitchlinks calls it a bilateral, rhythmic, psychosocial intervention. Those coping with mental health issues, chronic pain, insomnia, and addiction can achieve some level of relief when engaging in these activities. It has also been linked to delaying the onset of dementia. The Mayo Clinic reports that crafting can delay the onset of Alzheimer's by 30-50%.

Move over apples, there is a new doctor repellent in town.

Mental Health

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 450 million people live with mental illness worldwide. Just over 18% of adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder. Interests and hobbies are difficult to maintain when coping with mental health concerns. For stress, anxiety, and depression a hobby can offer a neutral focal point outside of ones own mental prison.

Knitting, or crocheting, can subtly help an individual conquer their personal demons. Mistakes can be undone without panic. A finished project is an accomplishment to be proud of. The prolonged gratification of a large project encourages patience.

From a chemical standpoint, the repetitive motion, releases the 'feel good' hormone Serotonin. Many individuals experiencing depression have low levels of that particular hormone and can improve with knitting.

Physical Health

Chronic pain affects people for a variety of reasons. Defined as pain that lasts three months or longer, these conditions can have a negative impact on an individuals quality of life.

On a chemical level, knitting can help with pain by releasing Serotonin. This hormone is known for regulating mood as discussed in the last section. This isn't the only benefit, however, as Serotonin is also a natural painkiller.

Though not a cure, knitting has been successfully used to distract the sufferer from the pain. Research has shown that the brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Crafting requires enough attention that the brain becomes unable to focus on the pain. Anyone who has experienced prolonged periods of time in pain can understand what a relief that is.

Insomnia

Insomnia, the inability to sleep, is a condition that has many negative effects on the sufferer. Lack of sleep impacts physical and mental health as well as productivity and safety. Ten percent of adults report experiencing chronic insomnia (the condition persists for 3-6 months or longer). Roughly one third of the population has experienced periods of acute insomnia during adulthood. Sleep specialists recommend a calming, meditative, activity when sleeping is difficult. Instead of laying in bed, becoming more frustrated or dwelling on the sleep you're not getting, knit a few rows on a simple project and clear your mind. This is a good time to work on new dish rags. Just like you find lost items once you stop looking for them, sleep will come more easily if you focus elsewhere.

Addiction

Addiction takes on many forms. Food, narcotics, cigarettes, alcohol, and gambling are a few common examples. Breaking my addiction to cigarettes was the catalyst for my use of yarn therapy. Starting with crocheting, I successfully broke the habit cold turkey. Keeping my hands busy, crafting a blanket, was the single most useful tool for my success.

The rhythmic motion of the stitches distracts from withdrawal or cravings. Advertising in the media can make life a living hell for an alcoholic or food addict with beer and fast food commercials at every break. Turn off the t.v. and pick up the needles for a distraction from whatever monkey is on your back.

My first double pointed needle project. It eventually became a sock.
My first double pointed needle project. It eventually became a sock.

Disclaimer

This article is not meant to suggest you replace doctor visits or medications with knitting alone. Always speak with trained medical professionals before quitting a medication. Yarn crafting can be another useful tool in the arsenal to reduce the symptoms of several conditions, prevent onset of illness, and kick some bad habits along the way. The sock, hat, mitten, scarf, and dish rag collection is just a perk of this therapeutic activity. Happy stitching!

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