To be mindful is to be fully present. Mindfulness practices encourage us to focus on our breath, sensations, emotions and thoughts in a non judgemental manner. The very nature of hand knitting is a practice in this. One becomes totally absorbed in the work, focused on the clicking of the needles, the touch of the yarn, the rhythm and repetition. Less is the attention on the outcome and more on the journey. And how wonderful is this; this craft form we love has the added benefit of enabling us to reach a meditative state! No yoga poses required. Recently there have been more and more studies researching the healing benefits of slow craft forms including knitting. It is understood that the practice of knitting is similar to that of playing the piano. Both activities require you to use both hands to make different moves. This simultaneous and coordinated movement stimulates both sides of the brain. Knitting also holds similar benefits to doing complex crossword puzzles or Suduko. Regular practice improves concentration, pattern recognition and memory. All of this is essentially very good for keeping the brain healthy and active.
Research shows that knitting lowers blood pressure, heart rate, stress levels and can even help relieve chronic pain. In 2009 the University of British Columbia studied the effects of the craft on women suffering from eating disorders. Seventy four percent of the women reported that knitting had a calming and therapeutic effect which resulted in a reduction of anxious thoughts. Another study from The British Journal of Occupational Therapy revealed a significant relationship between feeling calm and the time spent knitting. Moreover, knitting in a group boosted these benefits further, with happiness levels improving as well as social connections.
The organisation Knit for Peace carried out a comprehensive review of the health benefits knitting can bring, interviewing over 14,000 volunteers. Their findings show that regular knitting helps to reduce depression, lower blood pressure and slow the onset of dementia. Chronic pain can be alleviated as the repetitive motion boosts serotonin levels and the mind’s attention is focused elsewhere. The Mayo Clinic reported that knitting even lowers the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In today’s society these benefits are hard to ignore; knitting could be an important antidote to our mental health crisis and the pill-popping culture which has recently been making headlines. What is clear is the current approach is not working; it is time to take things quite literally into our own hands and seek out the knitting needles.
Perhaps the healing power lies in the process of a craft, whether it is knitting, weaving or pottery. The rhythm, the repetition, the dedication. It becomes a meditative experience, requiring total absorption and utter focus. The knitter is able to reach a state of flow. This is an incredible testament to the craft, 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 craft. Currently difficult to envision but clearly, this is the future.
Do you have a story about the healing power of knitting? We would love to hear from you. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Image credits: Ursula Castillo