Beat’s campaign to “Sock it to eating disorders” has prompted me to knit a pair of socks and reflect on the benefits of knitting! The British Journal of Occupational Therapy studied 3,545 knitters and found knitting has significant psychological and social benefits, which can contribute to well-being and improve quality of life.
- It is relaxing and can help alleviate stress and anxiety. The rhythmic, repetitive nature of knitting is soothing to mind and body. Knitting has been shown to lower your heart rate and blood pressure within a few minutes, and has similar effects on the mind to meditation.
- It is a good distraction and keeps you in the present. Mindfulness is the latest craze within the mental health world and I love it! I extend my practice beyond the traditional breathing techniques and can mindfully carry out activities such as showering, driving or washing up but I prefer to sit down a knit mindfully! The focus needed to count stitches etc. means you cannot dwell on the past or worry about the future, you have to focus on the knitting. The compulsive urges associated with addictive behaviours could be satisfied by the single minded focus on knitting.
- It boosts self esteem. All mental disorders are associated with low self esteem. Knitting items of clothing can take a long time therefore a completed item for yourself or a gift can give a huge sense of achievement. I often give hand crafted gifts for birthdays and Christmas, I like to see how pleased people are to receive what I’ve made.
- It prevents cognitive decline. A study of 1,321 older people showed a significant decrease in the odds of developing mild cognitive impairment if they took part in a craft activity.
- It can help prevent arthritis and tendinitis. Using your fingers, wrists and arms gently through knitting ensures fluid moves in and out of the surrounding tissues keeping the joints well hydrated and reducing risk of arthritis etc. (but it is not so strenuous that is causes repetitive strain injury).
- You can be creative. Most of the knitting I do is following a pattern but it is so much fun to make up your own! I made about 12 scarves a couple of years ago for Christmas presents, they were all experiments using various combinations of stitches – they might have had official names but it didn’t matter. Some I started and they didn’t look any good so I just unravelled what I’d done and started again. This gave me even more of a sense of achievement!
- Knitting can suit introverts and extroverts. I’m an introvert and love hours at home on my own knitting. For those who think this sounds like their idea of a nightmare, there are numerous “knit and natter” sessions all over the world for those who prefer to knit and socialise at the same time!
It is common for people to turn to vitamin and mineral suppliments which have been proven to have very limited impact over a healthy balanced diet. Instead of popping pills, try taking up knitting or another craft activity for so many proven benefits!