Happy and healthy with wool and needle
Some people may be surprised by this association with granny’s favourite pastime, but at second glance it is pretty obvious: Knitting and crocheting – rhythmical needlework with yarn – do not only produce nice results like sweaters, socks and hats, they positively influence your health, too. Knitting can heal physically as well as mentally, this is proven by academic studies – and many people who knit.
Knitting calms and stimulates your mind at the same time, that’s why it has an effect similar to meditation. Needlework lowers the blood pressure and the pulse. The US-American psychiatrist Teresa Anderson for example, considers knitting “active meditation”, because it’s a regular movement a person focuses on.
She recommends it to her patients who suffer from depression and anxiety, especially to nervous people who have a hard time simply sitting still. Many psychologist call knitting “the new yoga” and so do many media articles.
Good against stress, anxiety and depression
A study from the British Columbia University in Canada examined the effects of knitting on 38 women with eating disorders and ended up confirming the positive impact. In 74 % of all cases, needlework could mitigate the intensity of their fears and negative thoughts and calm the women down. Knitting keeps the fingers busy and the mind focused.
Even in some hospitals, schools and prisons such as a correctional facility in Thuringia, Germany and a prison in Brazil, knitting is applied as a therapeutic activity.
Especially people with post-traumatic stress disorders can find support in needlework as it offers them a chance to see that they can create something despite their suffering, says biomedical scientist Jenny Whiting from The Univerity of Sydney. The artisans working for Sita Crafts are Tamil women from tea picker families who suffer from their experiences of poverty, their oppression and their tragic losses from the many years of civil war that ended in 2009.
Dealing with wool gives people self-confidence
Many times it’s a beautiful and often quick sense of achievement to produce a high-quality unique item yourself, which can be used in everyday life. A stylish cap can be crocheted within two hours. It makes you feel productive and creative.
Preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia
The positive effects of cognitive activities on the aging brain are well-known and proven in medical sciences. Occupational therapists recommend reading, board games and needlework. But also for young people knitting is a useful precaution for the head as it trains the memory. The filigree stimulates the senses and several areas of the brain.
This was proven for example by a study of the neurology professor Yonas Geda from Arizona, US in 2011. He had 1300 older participants with a slight cognitive weakness tested. The risk to suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia would decrease if the elderly followed cognitive activities like reading or crocheting on a regular basis.
Knitting mitigates the sensation of pain
Patients suffering from (chronic) pain can also profit from meditation in the form of knitting and crocheting as Betsan Corkhill an English pain therapist emphasises. This is because pain is processed in the brain.
Beneficial finger gymnastics
Knitting and crocheting can be a great workout for the fingers and help to prevent arthritis. The needlework claims a movement of the finger joints but does not strain them like the typing on a keyboard. The hands are being trained powerfully and at the same time softly, the fingers get supplied with blood says the New Yorker hand surgeon Arron Barron.
In 2012, together with his wife Carrie, a psychiatrist, he published the book “The Creativity Cure: Building Happiness With Your Own Two Hands”. In this book they combine scientific knowledge with their own professional and personal experiences with needlework and recommend this leisure activity as a remedy for the body and mind.
According to Arron Barron knitting can prevent arthritis from which mostly women of the age of 50+ are affected. Like the brain, joints and cartilages in the fingers have to be used regularly in order not to rust.
The correct application of needlework is important to benefit the physical health: frequently change your sitting position, take breaks so the fingers do not knot and occasionally lean back to relieve the intervertebral disks. If you already suffer from arthritis, the fingers should be warmed up in warm water before starting to knit or crochet, says Barron. You should also use needles made of bamboo as they are warm in the hand compared to needles made of metal.
Knitting together is fun
Knitting together with others also has positive social effects. The craftswomen working for Sita Crafts meet up regularly to exchange views on their work and ideas and knit and crochet together. This strengthens the team spirit, the self-confidence and the creativity of the women – and it creates unique products made with a lot of love.
Thus, it is no surprise that knitting and crocheting seceded from the old-fashioned muff and became really trendy.