The healing power of knitting has gained attention recently due to its many therapeutic health benefits, in particular promoting mental health. In our busy world anxiety and depression are common conditions and the stresses of modern daily life can be hard to ignore. However, the good news is, public health is beginning to take a more holistic approach to health and well-being. The importance of alternative therapies is becoming recognised; movement as medicine, art as therapy and slow craft forms as transformative.
Social prescription is a relatively new area of non-clinical services being offered by the NHS, whereby GPs are able to refer patients to a range of holistic services such as arts activities, volunteering or gardening. The NHS describe social prescribing as working for a wide range of people, including those with long term conditions, those needing support with mental health, those who are lonely or isolated and those who have complex social needs affecting wellbeing. The Rotherham Social Prescribing pilot study of over 1,000 patients reported that 83 % experienced positive change over a period of 2 years. Currently, the NHS spends around £300 million every year on antidepressants and billions of pounds annually on dementia and chronic pain.
Reports support that prescribing knitting could be hugely beneficial for the NHS. One incredible organisation Knit for Peace carried out a major review of the health benefits it can bring, interviewing over 15,000 volunteers. Their findings show that regular knitting helps to reduce depression, lower blood pressure and stress levels. Chronic pain can be alleviated as the repetitive motion boosts serotonin levels and the mind’s attention is focused elsewhere. Knitting also keeps the brain active as well as improving memory; the Mayo Clinic reported that the craftform even lowers the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 30 – 50%. Having a project to focus on promotes a sense of usefulness and joining a knitting club or community increases well-being levels even further, helping to reduce isolation and feelings of loneliness.
Perhaps the healing power lies in the process of the craft, whether it is knitting, weaving or pottery. Absorbed in the rhythm and repetition, the practice becomes a meditative experience, requiring utter focus whereby the knitter is able to reach a state of flow. The physical act of creating something with one’s hands is both grounding and rewarding. This is an incredible testament to the craftform, proving it as effective as yoga or meditation in promoting wellbeing. Imagine a world where instead of being prescribed drugs at the doctor, you are prescribed art. Clearly, the future is heading this way.
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Image credits: Brigitte Waschilowski