Research suggests that the rhythmical motions of knitting could enhance the release of serotonin, a hormone that is a naturally occurring analgesic. Low serotonin levels have been linked to depression and anxiety disorders, as well as decreased pain thresholds.
1. It increases our degree of happiness.
A study by The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, conducted on a sample of 3,500 knitters, found that 81% of participants felt happier after knitting. Besides, more than 50% of the respondents said they felt very happy at the time of knitting.
2. It reduces our stress levels.
Knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce blood levels of cortisol (aka the stress hormone). Letting ourselves be carried away by an activity makes us forget everything that is around us. When we’re knitting, we focus on the knitwear that we’re creating, which helps us to mind away from our problems.
A 2009 University of British Columbia study among 38 women with anorexia nervosa found that learning how to knit led to significant improvements in their eating disorder. 74% of the women said the activity lessened their fears and kept them from ruminating about their problem.
In another study conducted by British yarn brand Wool and the Gang, 68% of its surveyed customers declared that knitting helped to fight stress and anxiety.
Schools and prisons with craft programs report that they have a calming effect and enhance social skills.
3. It helps with chronic pain.
Many people dealing with chronic pain describe being able to “forget” the pain while knitting. As the brain can process just so much at once, crafting activities make it harder for the brain to register pain signals.
Knitting also shows them that it’s possible to learn and engage their brain, even when they are feeling incapable of doing much else. Knitting gives them something to do during enforced periods of pain. They no longer feel “lazy” or “useless” and instead find something productive, creative and enjoyable to do.
Some people have found that it has helped their arthritic fingers remain more nimble with age. A woman with an autoimmune disease that caused a lot of hand pain reported on the Craft Yarn Council site that her hands are now less stiff and painful.
4. It improves your health.
Research also suggests that crafting activities may help to reduce the risk of decline in brain function with age. In a 2011 study, researchers interviewed a random sample of 1,321 people ages 70 to 89 about the cognitive activities they engaged in. The study found that those who participated in crafts like knitting and crocheting had a diminished chance of developing mild cognitive impairment and memory loss. Those who read or played music did not show similar benefits. The researchers speculate that craft activities promote the development of neural pathways in the brain that help to maintain cognitive health.
Given that social contacts also support health and longevity, those wishing to maximise the health value of crafts might consider joining a group of like-minded people.
Due to its repetitive nature, combined with time dedicated to concentration, knitting is a therapeutic activity, with the added benefit of an actual, physical reward at the end of the process that also enhances self-esteem.
Has knitting or crochet positively affected your health? Feel free to comment and tell us more about your story!