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Knitting as ritual – with potential health benefits?

Knitting as ritual - with potential health benefits?

knittingDuring finals, one of my college roommates would ritualistically sit in silence and knit an entire hat before she could begin studying. The steady, repetitive action calmed her down and cleared her mind. (Before less stressful exams, she baked.)

I thought of her when coming across a recent post on The Checkup that points to evidence, including previous research in seniors with mild cognitive impairment, that the health benefits experienced by people who engage in activities such as knitting and crocheting might be more than anecdotal. More from the piece:

In one study, 38 women hospitalized for anorexia were given a questionnaire about their psychological state after being taught to knit.

After an average of one hour and 20 minutes of knitting a day for an average of three weeks, 74 percent of them reported less fear and preoccupation with their eating disorder, the same percentage reported that knitting had a calming effect, and just over half said knitting gave them a sense of pride, satisfaction and accomplishment.

The rhythmic movements of knitting offer many of the same kinds of benefits as meditation, says Carrie Barron, [MD,] an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York and co-author of the book “The Creativity Cure: How to Build Happiness With Your Own Two Hands.” In addition, she says, seeing a project take shape provides a deep sense of satisfaction.

That might have been why Pee-wee Herman found the unsolved mystery of his stolen bike so unnerving: “It’s like you’re unraveling a big cable-knit sweater that someone keeps knitting and knitting and knitting…” he said in the 1985 film Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

Previously: Image of the Week: Personalized brain activity scarves, Image of the Week: aKNITomy, Study shows meditation may alter areas of the brain associated with psychiatric disorders and Ommmmm… Mindfulness therapy appears to help prevent depression relapse
Photo by Merete Veian

10 Responses to “ Knitting as ritual – with potential health benefits? ”

  1. Pauline Coubrough Says:

    I have knitted all my life and can not imagine that I could have a complete life without my yarns and knitting needles. I love the outcome, find it totally relaxing and when knitting for charity it feels as if I give a little of my soul in every stitch to keep a child warm…….

  2. Janet E. Campbell Says:

    I agree with the article. I have often brought my knitting to work to do during the lunch break. If I am having a particularly stressful time at work the calm rhythm of the knitting or crocheting brings my blood pressure down. Having a sense of accomplishment of a few rows of work also helps when work situations are not working well. It also attracts others to stop by and see what I am doing and starts conversations.

  3. Lisa Crozier Says:

    I’ve been knitting for over 40 years. During college, several of my fellow nursing students and myself would knit during class, take notes and I recorded the class as well on a cassette recorder. At our senior unsparing banquet, the professor’s dubbed us the Knittingest Class! UVM ’83!

  4. April mckellar Says:

    Knitting has help me to stop smoking I enjoy planning my next project and finishing it. Give me something to do with my hands instead of cigarettes.

  5. Ann Keefer Says:

    Knitting absolutely elevates self-esteem and feelings of success. Mistakes and “un-knitting” aside, learning how to make something entirely new, often following complex charts with their own set of symbols and vocabulary, leads directly to feelings of accomplishment. knitting (as a repetitive motion with adaptable textures) can also work as a stim device for people on the autism spectrum and for people with other neurological differences (anxiety, OCD, depression). I have found knitting to be particularly effective at promoting feelings of accomplishment as I have had to adapt my technique to suit my somewhat deformed hands — I may not knit in precisely the same way as most, but I figured out MY way and can produce things of great beauty.

  6. Jeanine Says:

    It isn’t just knitting. Consider hand quilting and piecing or needlepoint. I admit I find tatting more frustrating than soothing but I’ve got friends who love tatting. Handwork helps me focus on the topic during meetings and gives me an escape when I am home. Knitting is also a good way to give your brain the option to sort out problems while your hands are busy.

  7. Heather Berniker Says:

    I am now 70. Started knitting at age 11 and crocheting at 21 and never stopped. It is the most gratifying of activities, especially now, when I knit for friends, kids, dogs, cats and, occasionally for myself! To give a gift that is hand-made brings so much pleasure both to the recipient and to me.

  8. Marcia liggett Says:

    I find knitting brings such a sense of calm. I work nights as a nurse, which can be very stressful. I take my knitting to all my conferences and meetings, it helps me concentrate and I don’t fidget. It has also kept me from stress eating.

  9. Emily Furda Says:

    I once had a doctor tell me the same thing years ago. She said she’d recommend it for anyone. She said several things help with the relaxing. One is the obvious, the repetitive motion. A second is the feel of the yarn as it moves through the fingers. It works much like petting a cat or dog, or a child holding a blanket. It’s soothing. Also, it takes our concentration away from us & on to a project where we can visually see progress. It is instant gratification. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Plus, when we’re done, we have something beautiful to show.

  10. D Dickens Says:

    Knitting was my favorite choice of activities while I was going through withdrawal symptoms. I had given up cigarettes and knitting kept my mind and hands busy. I made one heck of a afghan.


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