The Brain Benefits of Knitting: How Crafting with Threads Can Improve Your Mental Health

Knitting is a great activity for all people, young and old, as it involves all parts of the brain at once. But research shows that weaving and crafting with threads can do more than just keep your hands busy. It can also “activate areas of the brain that are good at generating a sense of calm” and contribute to better emotional processing and decision-making. Repetitive movement releases serotonin, which improves mood and a sense of calm.

Learning new skills, social interaction, and physical activity help forge neural connections that keep the brain healthy and active.By 2050, the number of people with dementia is expected to more than triple. Knitting is one of the best activities to protect the brain from this debilitating condition. It has been shown to stimulate the brain to produce dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. Creative activities such as knitting, painting and crafts involve working the hands in sync with the brain, giving patients with dementia a natural increase in dopamine, called the “natural antidepressant.”Knitting forces the brain to use its memory actively, and the more you use your brain, the healthier it becomes.

Neuroscientists are beginning to understand how mindfulness, meditation and the experience of flow impact the brain. Neuroscientists used to believe that the brain was a static organ, but now they know that it can “reprogram” itself. Tissue stimulates different parts of the brain, including those that work for memory and attention span. Researchers speculate that craft activities promote the development of neural pathways in the brain that help maintain cognitive health.My experience in neurodevelopmental pediatrics and my experience working with children and adults with brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, strokes and neurological disorders has led me to a fascination with neuroplasticity and the brain's ability to “reprogram” itself.

I am pleased to report that neuroscience is finally catching up with the brain health aspects of crafting activities like knitting.Knitwear, stitch groups, and even scrapbook parties have many keys to mental and brain health covered. Weavers learn that as they create wool neurons, their own neurons are forming new pathways in their brains. Knitting is an activity that can help you stay mentally sharp while also providing a sense of calmness and relaxation.

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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