Healthy living thanks to knitting - a neuroscientific perspective

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According to German neuroscientist Dr Edda Jaleel (Projekt Sinnvoll), knitting and crochet has so many significant health benefits that she is now lobbying the health insurance sector to include crafting as a preventative health measure.

Among the many benefits are:

  • Improved physical wellbeing thanks to de-stressing: Knitting and crochet requires you to slow down and focus. When creating your stitches, you regularly repeat a set of movements. The effect is similar to yoga and meditation: You are able to relax, your heart rate stabilises and your blood pressure comes down. Relaxation is vital in a highly stressful work and life environment. 
  • Mental health: You are training your brain by learning new skills, focussing on your task and using both sides of your brain through a manually creative process.
  • Enjoyment and social benefits: Create and re-inforce community through making things for others.
  • Individuality: The creative process strengthens your sense of self and helps you express your personality through the things you make. You will find that something you have made yourself provides a higher level of satisfaction than a mass produced item.
  • Sustainability: You are likely to treasure something you have spent time and effort on much more than something you have bought that could easily be discarded. In today's world of fast fashion and throw-away culture, a return to handcraft and valuing individually created items leads to lower consumption.
  • Saving money: You are saving money if you invest in something that you use for a longer time than a 'cheap' throw-away product. This still applies even when you buy expensive yarns - yes, quality yarn will cost more than many a ready-made item at K-Mart, but you also get so much more: you get a unique item made with quality ingredients that are likely to last. That is usually not the case with mass produced items.
  • Help with preventing/overcoming addiction: Keeping your hands busy is vital if you are trying to overcome an addiction. Whether it is smoking, drinking or fast food - while you are busy working away, you are less likely to need that cigarette or chocolate bar. Interestingly, the same region in the brain that is responsible for hunger is also active when knitting, so there appears to be a direct link!
  • Community-building: Take your knitting or crochet out in public and you will quickly find others who are interested in your work. Or join a knitting/crochet/craft group - and if there isn't one nearby, why not start one? Meeting others with a similar interest is highly rewarding.
  • Cost effective and easy to do: Knitting and crochet is independent of location and it is actually not very expensive when you compare it to other activities. You don't need much to get started - all you need are knitting needles or a crochet hook and some yarn. No monthly gym fees, no expensive outfit, you can start small and build up from there. 
  • Build up expertise: You will find that once you get started and have learned the first steps, you will quickly become more and more proficient. You will soon enjoy the challenge of taking on more complicated patterns. Many knitters and crocheters are even using their hobby to earn some extra money on etsy or at markets. 

So, next time you feel guilty for buying more yarn or spending time doing your knitting or crochet, just remind yourself that you are actually doing something important for your mental health and wellbeing. 

Happy crafting!

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