written by Ann Weaver
Knitting season is here! Temperatures are (slowly) dropping, leaves are changing, and new fall yarns are arriving. As our calendars fill up with fall events and commitments, finding time to knit can help us stay healthy. Many studies from research universities and hospitals have proven that knitting (and other needle arts like crocheting, embroidery, and quilting) improve both physical and mental health. Here are just a few of the benefits.
A Sense of Calm
Like yoga and Tai Chi, knitting involves repetitive motions, which can create a feeling of relaxation. What’s more, this feeling has physical benefits, such as lowered heart rate and blood pressure. One study determined that “textile therapy ”—quilting and knitting—were more effective at reducing stress than meditation.
If your chosen project doesn’t create a feeling of wellness, switch to something easier. I always have a few projects going, one of which is back-and-forth garter stitch or Stockinette stitch in the round. I can work on a project like this during my most stressful periods, and the rhythm of it is calming.
A Feeling of Pride
Knitting has a benefit that yoga and meditation don’t—a finished product! If the project is for a gift or for a cause, knitting it can provide a sense of purpose and connection to the larger world. If the project is for yourself, think about the pride you’ll feel when you wear it. I can’t think of an activity that rivals stitching for both relaxation and self-esteem. Those of us who need to feel productive, even on vacation or during time off, can keep our hands busy and push away the feeling of anxiety about “wasting time” (speaking from experience here!).
A Shift in Focus
Part of knitting’s capacity to reduce stress comes from the focus it requires. Because it requires knitters to pay attention to their work (more or less, depending on the project), it can redirect attention from pain, stress, or fatigue. Just focusing on something positive can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, too.
Additionally, this focus can help us stay mentally sharp as we age. Like other activities that require mental engagement, knitting reduces the mild cognitive impairment that comes with aging. Even the most basic pattern requires some math skills!
Finally, although knitting is an individual activity, the communities of knitters that form in knitting groups, classes, and knit nights reduce isolation and create meaningful friendships. It’s easy to talk to new friends when you share a passion. Coming to knit night, an event or a class at String Theory can get you out of the house in the dark winter months and give you the joy of learning and creating.
Consider treating yourself or someone you love to a Box of Joy, Box of Light, or Box of Peace. The projects are designed to be both meditative to knit and joyful to wear—they’re created with the health benefits of knitting in mind.