A mental work out
Often described as yoga for the brain, knitting & crochet provides an exhilarating mental work out, forcing devotees to focus on the job in hand, unless they want to end up with a finished item which is out of shape and full of holes.
The repetition involved in the task can be soothing, and induce an almost zen-like state. This in turn can help to ease anxiety and stress, and lift depression.
For this reason knitting has been introduced in places such as hospitals, clinics, schools and even prisons, to help improve the state of mind. Many experts believe that the combination of simple, repetitive movements together with the focus of having a pattern to concentrate on is an effective formula for improving mood and emotions.
Knitting has proved particularly useful in conditions such as eating disorders. In one study almost three quarters of participants said that knitting helped them to think about food and the desire to binge or purge far less, and quelled their obsession. More than half agreed it provided a sense of achievement and encouragement.
So we’ve established that knitting and crochet is great for keeping our brain cells in good shape and keep stress levels down what else is it good for?
Grieving and bereavement
It can be difficult to function normally following bereavement where there’s a great sense of loss and little inclination to do much.
Knitting can be a great way to start to do things again; the repetitive, non-demanding nature of knitting can slowly soothe the soul, providing something to concentrate on and shutting out all unwanted thoughts.
Other activities such as reading can be too demanding, but knitting hits the ideal point between two extremes.
Dementia comes in many different forms but probably the two best known of them all are Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia.
The various types of dementia manifest in a similar way, with patients becoming confused in familiar surroundings in the later stages of the disease.
Certain cognitive activities have been found to be beneficial to the brain functioning of sufferers, and can help to delay the onset or rapid development of symptoms. Cognitive activities which have been identified as being particularly beneficial include painting, crossword puzzles and knitting.
The key is that the activity must require the individual to focus inwards in order to complete the task, giving the body a powerful shot of dopamine. Dopamine is often referred to as the “natural anti-depressant” and has many benefits relating to mood and emotion.
However, for the activity of knitting in particular, the areas in the brain that are stimulated include those used for attention span and memory. These are the same two areas which are typically attacked by dementia too. Although knitting doesn’t offer a cure for the disease, some research has suggested that it may slow the progression down by as much as 50%.
And for those individuals who started knitting earlier in life, before age 50, their chances of developing dementia at all is significantly slashed.
Suffering from insomnia is particularly unpleasant but it can provide the ideal opportunity to learn a new craft.
Picking up a project which isn’t too taxing mentally has been shown as helping to ease the symptoms of insomnia and increase the chances of sleep. The Mind/Body Medical Institute reported a study from Professor Herbert Benson that suggested all of the patients on their study had recorded improved sleep patterns with knitting, with nine out of ten able to eliminate the need for medication as a result.
No-one is suggesting that knitting is a magical panacea for all ills but there’s certainly evidence that it can help with a number of different medical conditions. If you want to protect those brain cells and lift your mood, regardless of your age, bring out those knitting needles and tell anyone who asks that you are looking after your long term health