Knitting Your New Year’s Resolution: Is Knitting Good For Your Health?

by Skye Sherman - January 6 , 2020


Photo Credit: by andigal01, flickr.com
Photo Credit: by andigal01, flickr.com

Over the years, all kinds of activities have been presented as packed with potential health and mental wellness benefits: Sudoku puzzles, meditation, coloring books, and more. But what about knitting? This longstanding favorite pastime -- usually taken up in earnest by grandmothers and the crafty types -- is known to be relaxing and productive, but what else does it do for you?

We know that eating your vegetables, getting exercise, and saving time for ample sleep are three no-fail ways of increasing your physical health. But could adding knitting into the mix come with its own host of potential benefits? Whether you’re already a seasoned knitter or are interested in trying out a new hobby to get your fingers moving, you’ll want to read through this article to get a feel for whether or not knitting might be good for your health.

This year, why not try out a New Year’s Resolution you’ll actually want to keep? Knitting is a lot more fun than losing weight or cutting out carbs! Read on to learn more about the science of knitting and crochet, which may do more for you than you ever realized.

The Difference Between Knitting and Crochet – And the Benefits of Both

Before we launch into the discussion of how knitting and crochet may be good for your brain, it would be helpful to differentiate between the two activities. While they are similar in process and result, knitting and crochet are two different things. Crochet is a bit less popular than knitting, but both belong to a category of crafting known as “needle arts.”

An article titled To Knit or Crochet? That is The Question! explains the difference this way: “In Knitting, the stitches make a V shape and it’s more like stitching for lack of a better word. In Crochet, the stitches are more like knots. Both are really methods of looping yarn together, just in different styles. Knitting uses a pair of long needles to form the loops, moving a set of loops from one needle to another. The stitches are held on the needle or live. Crochet uses a single hook, to hook the loops together directly on the piece.”

In short, the two differences between knitting and crochet are simply the tools used and the way the stitches are looped. However, both practices offer similar benefits and draws to newcomers:

“Neither require lots of space, special machines, or a huge expense to start. At the bare working minimum, all you need to start is: a pattern, yarn, and a hook or needles. That’s it. Scissors, if you don’t want to bite off your yarn to bind off! It’s not to say they can’t require more tools down the road or get expensive. But kids, teens, or anyone who doesn’t have the resources for extra hobbies can find a free pattern and acquire some economy yarn and a hook or needles at any halfway decent crafts store for well under $10 and you’re off! The possibilities for this one hook (or needles) and some yarn are endless. You could potentially knit or crochet almost anything you can think of with your own 2 hands and some patience.”

In other words, both knitting and crafting can be economical yet productive and fulfilling hobbies. You can do them almost anywhere and with very little investment or experience to start off. These practices are so approachable and easy to begin that almost anyone can do them. So in addition to their potential benefits to your brain, they also ease your mind by not hurting your wallet or becoming a hobby that could take over your life and home. Who doesn’t love that?

The Science of Knitting and Crochet – They Do More For You Than You Think

It’s obvious that taking up knitting or crocheting could be a relaxing hobby that both gives your brain a break from the stress and digital connectivity of our modern world yet also gives it something to focus and concentrate on. Crafting with yarn can be a mild challenge -- just enough of a level of difficulty to keep your interest and give you a feeling of accomplishment, yet not overwhelming or burdensome.

Many people who knit or crochet report that they find the hobby enjoyable, relaxing, and a welcome reprieve from the pressures of everyday life. But there are some lesser known -- yet much more beneficial -- side effects of yarn crafting.

For example, did you know that they can potentially protect you from dementia? An article about the biggest benefits of yarn crafting states, “Several studies have shown that knitting and crochet can postpone age-related memory loss. The crafts can also be soothing for those people who are already experiencing signs of dementia. Recently, researcher Yonas Geda, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, completed a study that showed knitting is neuroprotective and may reduce dementia by as much as 50%.”

This is no small thing: 50% is a huge percentage for those at risk of dementia or those who want to nurture their brains to the best of their ability. If there was a drug or a food that could offer such promising results, everyone would be taking it!

Another article states, “Crocheting can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 30-50%. By engaging in cognitive exercises and stimulating your mind, you can slow down or even prevent memory loss. Whether you plan on challenging your memory by learning a new stitch or technique or simply by reading and working up a pattern, by getting a little crafty, you’ll be helping preserve your memories.”

Helping with anxiety and depression isn’t out of the question for knitting, either. The former article continues, “Depression relief is by far the most reported and studied benefit of crochet and knitting. The repetition of the crafts has been shown to release serotonin, a natural anti-depressant. CNN recently reported that ‘in one study of more than 3,500 knitters, published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting. More than half reported feeling ‘very happy.’ …

Yarncrafts helps with various forms of anxiety. It keeps your hands busy and mind focused so that you can attend classes or events even when you have social anxiety. It brings the internal mind to a calmer space for when you’re coping with the anxiety of repetitious thoughts. The counting has even been shown to serve as a productive outlet for people with anxiety associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as eating disorders. The Craft Yarn Council reports on one study that showed nearly ¾ of women with anorexia found knitting to be calming and anxiety-reducing.”

If a new report came out about a single hobby that could stave off dementia, help ease anxiety and depression, make you happy, and give you something productive to do, wouldn’t you want to know -- and start on it! -- right away? That’s what knitting and crochet may be able to offer to its practitioners. In fact, The Wall Street Journal called this meditative process “medknitation”! If you want to learn more, check out yarn-happy author Kathryn Vercillo’s book titled Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet.

How Knitting Can Be Good for Your Health in 2020

Providing a degree of relief to those who suffer from depression and anxiety disorders -- not to mention lowering your risk of dementia -- aren’t the only benefits that knitting and crochet can offer. While these health benefits are potentially life changing, the crafts can assist and improve your life in smaller ways, too.

Many knitters and crocheters report that their favorite activity is a great way to battle through insomnia. If you wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep, or have trouble falling asleep in the first place, why just lay there? Instead, turn to a hobby that will calm your racing mind and result in a beautiful hand-crafted piece of art that you can wear, use, or gift to a loved one. You might as well get something out of the hours spent awake -- other than a stiff neck from tossing and turning all night, that is.

The article cited above shares, “Stitchlinks, a UK organization that does research into the benefits of knitting, reports that a study by professor Herbert Benson of the Mind/Body Medical Institute found that 100% of insomnia patients reported improved sleep with 90% being able to eliminate medication in a program that included knitting.”

These results aren’t just impressive -- they’re groundbreaking. Insomnia sufferers would do well to pick up a yarn craft and see if it may help them. Spend a little time on the peaceful, repetitive habit and you may find that your mind and body are soothed so fully, you’re finally ready to drift into a quiet slumber. Getting enough sleep is a vital element of good health, strong immunity, and longevity. For those reasons alone, knitting may be worth a try.

Fringe benefits of knitting and crocheting include the fact that you’ll potentially boost self esteem and build community along the way, plus reduce feelings of restlessness and irritability. Many people even see yarn crafts as a way to cultivate their spirituality, deepening their faith and devotion as they pray while they stitch.

As you build your skills in the crafting world, you’ll likely feel a sense of progress, accomplishment, and creative self-expression. Finding your inner strength and drive as you envision a new project and then see it through to completion can do more for your feelings of self-worth, strength, confidence, and happiness than you ever thought possible. Through knitting, people have found the strength and bravery to leave abusive relationships, start new endeavors, process their grief, battle their stress, stand up for themselves, and learn to encourage and love others, too.

Craft Yourself to Good Health in 2020

An article on LittleThings.com states, “Knitting, crocheting, lacemaking, and lots of other string-based crafts have been popular for eons. While in the past, knitting was a necessity to making warm clothing and blankets, now, it’s just a craft and pastime that people of all ages enjoy. It’s always so satisfying to make something with your hands!

But it’s more than making yourself a cute sweater or a fluffy pair of socks, it turns out. In fact, it’s much more. Knitting actually brings with it a slew of health-boosting benefits. Besides being a cool, classic skill and a method of creative expression, sometimes in unexpected ways, it actually has mental, physical, and emotional benefits.”

Some of these mental and physical benefits include lowering your heart rate and blood pressure (which can prevent many diseases!), boosting your math skills, keeping your fingers nimble as you age, sharpening your memory, managing your pain levels (especially as you recover from illness or injury), providing a sense of control while the rest of life is awry, reducing your desire to eat mindlessly by reaching for food when you’re uncomfortable or bored, and even lending a sense of purpose to those who have faced major life changes or the rigors of aging.

Other Craft Activities That Are Good For Your Brain

Not into yarn and knitting needles, or want to supplement your knitted pastime with other mentally soothing crafts? Some good options are pottery, beadwork, paint by numbers, embroidery or cross stitching, and adult coloring books. That’s right: coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. Even Princess Kate loves a good coloring book!

A Travel + Leisure article titled Kate Middleton’s Hobby Might Be One of Your Favorite Things To Do, Too states, “Middleton's husband Prince William recently shared her little secret while presenting illustrator Johanna Basford with and OBE—Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire Buckingham Palace—award for services to art and entrepreneurship. Basford is the illustrator behind Secret Garden, an adult coloring book that the Duke of Cambridge said his wife loves.”

The article goes on to state that if you want to feel a little closer to the future queen, you could purchase the exact same coloring book for yourself. “The best part of all of this? You, too, can spend your days doodling in the same book that brings the Duchess of Cambridge joy—and it's going to cost you less than $10.”

If this adult coloring book is good enough to ease the mind of a woman as busy and under pressure as Princess Kate, it’s certainly good enough for the rest of us! Imagine what it might do for your own stress levels and feelings of rest.

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DISCLAIMER

While the above article is based on thorough research, we do not claim to offer a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. The article was written for information and educational purposes only. We aim to provide helpful information to our readers, but cannot provide a treatment, diagnosis, or consultation of any sort, and we are in no way indicating that any particular drug is safe or appropriate for you and your individual needs. To receive professional medical attention, you must see a doctor.