Can knitting help keep you sane? Homesteading seems to be a part of hipster culture nowadays. It’s not uncommon to see young folks interested in canning their own food, planting urban gardens, and knitting their own clothing. Knitting can be more than just a hip thing to do, however. There’s actually some interesting research out there on the mental health benefits of knitting or crocheting.
Here are some of the ways knitting has been demonstrated to help with stress relief:
Knitting tends to heighten the brain’s alpha-wave output. These are brain waves that are seen when a person is fully awake but in a relaxed, blissful, and addictive state. They also can occur during yoga, meditation, and even after smoking a cigarette. This explains why many knitters say it helps them to de-stress and why many keep returning to knitting for coping time and time again.
2. It’s tactile.
There’s soft yarn, rough yarn, fuzzy yarn, thick yarn, thin yarn, you name it. Just handling yarn can be relaxing for some people. Combine that with the repetitive motions and counting and you can see how knitting is really quite sensory. Finished products can range from silky smooth to bumpy and puffy. Imagine touching something you made yourself that feels really great!
3. Challenges, problem solving, and growth.
Once you’ve made a scarf, a hat seems like a good challenge. Next thing you know, you are making sweaters and blankets- increasing your skills and taking small (or big) leaps in the difficulty of your projects, which can be very rewarding. Knitting also gives you an opportunity to fix mistakes in your projects and you are forced to do so with patience and attention to detail. If you are changing a pattern, you will find yourself growing in your ability to use problem solving skills, basic math, and creativity. Practicing challenges, problem solving, and fixing mistakes could improve how you cope with real-life/non-yarn dilemmas too.
4. Pride and spreading the knitted gospel.
If you have ever made a yarn project, you remember feeling proud of what you accomplished at one point or another. I still remember how pleased I was with myself when I made a simple square pot holder as one of my first projects over 4 years ago. A 2010 survey found that the average knitter has taught about 8.5 people how to knit as well, making knitting a social activity that folks get excited about sharing. Gift giving is the primary reason for knitting for about 13% of people in the same survey, again sharing and accomplishment are highlighted.
How can knitting be used in therapy?
Therapists can encourage clients who knit to use knitting as a coping skill during times of stress. “Knit to Quit” and similar programs teach clients to use knitting as an alternative to substance abuse, particularly cigarette smoking.
Therapists can ask clients to bring in a piece of work and talk about why they like it, what it means to them, etc.
Therapists can help clients with feelings identification and mood tracking by having them knit using a color or yarn type that relates to how they felt emotionally for that day. I’ve seen this done with projects like blankets where clients can add a row per day using different colors.
Therapists can allow clients to bring in projects that would help them focus during sessions-either a completed project they can touch or play with to calm them down or an easy project they can knit while talking.
Do you knit for stress relief? Have you ever used knitting as a therapeutic intervention?