Knitting: A Therapeutic Activity for Mental Health

Within the textile arts, fabric has been used as a form of occupational therapy, as well as to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, while helping to preserve cognitive and brain function and physical dexterity in old age. Recent research has shown that fabric has a measurable effect in calming anxiety and relieving stress. An international survey revealed a strong connection between fabric and feelings of calm and happiness.In addition to the activity itself, many weavers find benefits in the social nature of knitting, whether they belong to a local knitting group or an online community. In a clinical setting, a study of a group of people who have eating disorders showed that knitting had a significant effect on reducing anxiety and calming obsessive thoughts or worries.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that knitting can induce a form of meditation very similar to mindfulness, which has been proven to be effective in treating depression and chronic pain.The wonderful thing about knitting is that it combines mindfulness with meaninglessness perfectly. You have to concentrate, of course, but you can easily get lost in regular movements and rhythmic counting. It's a relaxing type of self-hypnosis. Here are some of the benefits of knitting as a self-care activity:

  • It provides an attainable end goal - each item you knit prepares you to be cleaner, faster and more ambitious with the next.

    You can literally see the visual improvement.

  • It offers an opportunity to be creative and independent - if something you want doesn't exist, create it.
  • It can help generate comfortable and natural conversations.
  • It provides an opportunity to give back - there are many ways to knit for charity, and many studies show that giving back to the community supports mental health.
Although childhood was full of clay pots and finger paint, these types of creative activities are almost non-existent in “adulthood”. Unless you're an expert artist, practicing a trade for fun is almost ridiculous and a waste of time - except when it comes to knitting. Because you can't really be “bad at knitting” - either you're doing it or you're not. In a world of intangible concepts, seeing something you're working on grow and improve is particularly satisfying.When you feel like a useless waste of the earth's resources, that's useful.

But combine this feeling with another unpleasant feeling - the panic of a wasted life - and you've gotten yourself into real trouble. It's easy and not at all unpleasant to do, even in the midst of wishing for everything to go away. And in terms of wasting what precious time do we have on Earth? Well, you may have rewatched an entire season of America's Next Top Model while you were crying, but if you've also knitted half an inch out of a pair of socks, then technically you've been productive as well.Scientific research and findings that support therapeutic knitting are fascinating and exciting. We've already mentioned that knitting in a social setting, whether in real life or online, offers great mental health benefits, but another element is that knitting is often an opportunity to give back, which can be a big boost to your mental health.For those whose mental health problems manifest in fear of being around other people, knitting is a brilliant crutch - an almost literal “safety blanket”.

Not only does it give you something to do with your hands that isn't rolling and smoking cigarettes repeatedly (who, me?), but it can also help generate comfortable and natural conversations.At times when all brain function is busy with “don't cry, don't panic”, that's valuable. If you give someone a gift, they will be your friend for life. And you want to know a secret? Knitting is not that difficult. In fact, I'd say it has one of the most efficient effort-to-praise ratios out there.For times when your self-esteem is non-existent and everything you do seems rubbish, any compliment can be a savior.

As we continue with these knitting lessons, I have found ways to make use of knitting as occupational therapy. This could explain why weavers have reported improved moods, a sense of calmness, and lower levels of pain.I've reserved my knitting for cooler weather activities - not that it means much; I'm in Southern California lol! It's good to find a blog from time to time that isn't the same unwanted rehash information. Research suggests that rhythmic and repetitive knitting movements may improve the release of serotonin - a hormone that regulates mood, learning and sleep.There seem to be many different groups for weavers suffering from depression, anxiety, multiple sclerosis, chronic illness and colitis - and many other physical and mental health problems. Knitting is my “going to winter” activity - but now after reading everyone's thoughts I'm considering it as an important year-round tool to help me deal with escaping thoughts.A study published by the British Journal of Occupational Therapy reports that weavers who knit frequently are calm, happy and experience superior cognitive functioning.

There are many ways to knit for charity; many studies show that giving back to the community supports mental health and can help with feelings of depression and loneliness.

Jane MacDonald
Jane MacDonald

I am of the author and owner of I Love Knitting. I first learned to knit when I was around five years old, and stop doing it when I hit my teens! I than picked it back up when I had my first child, and have since taught all three of my children to knit.

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