My beautiful Nan was rarely without a pair of needles and a knitting project in her hands and for most of my childhood, I wore many of her gorgeous creations. So much so that I suspect I was born with the soothing click clack sound of knitting and crochet needles in the background, just like mood music.
Nan was what I would call a high-end knitter – there was seemingly no stitch or design that she could not do at top speed. She passed her knitting and crocheting skills onto my mum who in turn taught my siblings and myself to do the same. The actual LEVEL of skill has not necessarily made it down the line and it may take me a few years to finish a project but I can knit and I love it for so many reasons.
The great thing is – this creative hobby is good for your health and wellbeing too. Although Nan is no longer here to ask, I would hazard a guess that it is one of the reasons that she was always so happy and a dab hand with numbers.
What are the health benefits of knitting and crocheting?
In our time poor world, it is so easy to get caught up in trying to do twenty things at the same time, aka multi-tasking. Hordes of us believe that this is a prized skill and do the proverbial octopus dance every day. Clinical research shows that the reality of multi-tasking is quite different. We are not wired to juggle several tasks at a time because we just can’t concentrate and focus on any of them, resulting in lacklustre performance and complete lack of effectiveness in our day-to-day lives. Knitting and crocheting makes you focus on one thing at a time and in the process is an amazing stress relief activity. For me, I cannot think about another thing while knitting (the fear of dropping all those stitches is all too much) and what a joy that is.
Have you ever heard of the Blue Zone’s?
Blue Zones are five regions in the world where people tend to live the longest (and also happiest) lives. Ikaria – Greece, Sardinia – Italy, Nicoya Peninsula – Costa Rica and a seventh day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California are the five zones. Eating a mostly plant based diet is considered to be one of the key characteristics they have in common, together with eight others. Interestingly, one of the outstanding characteristics that they share is living as part of a community, whether it is faith based or meeting up once a week for a knitting class. It’s all about connection.
Hobbies like knitting and crocheting are the perfect conduit for connection and sharing.
It’s all in the hands
We all know that regular exercise is vital for good health but what about exercise for our hands? These essential body parts are usually busy supporting us in everything we do and often get overlooked in the care department. Knitting and crocheting increase mobility and blood flow in the fingers and hands, keeping them supple and flexible.
There is research that shows that actively doing craft activities like knitting and crocheting, promotes the development of neural pathways in the brain that help to maintain cognitive health. Clearly, this is super important, as we get older. Deciphering patterns and instructions (not one of my strengths I must admit) plus the constant counting are very useful activities for brain health.
Creativity expert Dr Erika Jacobson, says that when we are thinking creatively we are being flexible, embracing ambiguity and seeing connections that we didn’t see before, therefore we are firing up new pathways in our brains. We may also be having fun, being playful and self-expressive, and this, if nothing else, reduces our levels of stress significantly, which has huge impact on our wellbeing.
I could not count the number of pullovers, scarves and beanies/hats that have been crafted with love and gifted to me by my Nan, mum and friends over my life. Think about the charity groups and organizations that knit for people in need around the world that do just that too.
Giving makes us feel good because we get what researchers call a ‘helpers high’ or a distinct physical sensation associated with helping. Other neuroscience studies show that acts of giving decrease stress and contribute to enhanced mental health while boosting our happiness and performance levels.
A work of art
There is no doubt that there are many knitters and crocheter’s out there that can produce pieces that are not only practical but also works of art. Take yarn bombing for example. This global phenomenon can be seen all over the world adorning street signs, light poles, trees or anything that sits still really! Take a look around you when next out and about and see if you can spot one – they are usually bright, colourful and a feast for the eyes. There are several studies around the world that show that an appreciation of the arts appears to improve health and well-being, particularly in men. Although knitting and crocheting were not specifically mentioned in these studies, I feel confident that yarn bombing fits the bill perfectly.
Watch it grow
Don’t you just love watching something grow before your eyes? That is one of the most rewarding things about knitting and crocheting – whatever it is that you are working on just keeps growing. It gives you instant reward and a sense of achievement, which is linked to a healthy self-esteem and sense of purpose.
Have you got a project that you would like to share? I’d love to hear about it.