Knitting for mindfulnessPublished on 4 October 2018 By Meg 5 min read
Knit one, purl one, and breathe. For many of us, picking up our needles is a form of mindful meditation. The simple act of focusing the mind, repeating stitch after stitch, and turning yarn into fabric, is a meditative process that fills our knitted hearts with joy.
Ask knitters ‘Why do you knit?’ and you’ll hear stories from people who love the challenge, those who enjoy creating something unique, or knitters who enjoy giving to people they love. But whatever our reasons, what unites us as knitters, is that we all go on a journey, and it’s in that journey that we find moments to contemplate, relax and feel at peace with ourselves.
Being mindful means being present. When we relax into our knitting, we can turn our attention to our breathing, clear our thoughts, and take time to be in the moment. Here’s our guide to knitting for you and your mind.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” - Mindful.org
Health benefits of knitting
Did you know that when you knit, the bilateral (two sided), coordinated hand movements fire neurons all over your brain? Just like playing the piano, the act of using both hands at once to make different movements stimulates a whole host of brain functions which, in turn, have wonderful health benefits. Studies have revealed that anxiety, eating disorders and pain management, can be helped through knitting. Let’s get the science do the talking...
Stitchlinks, the brainchild of Betsan Corkill, is a non profit, community interest group leading a movement to use knitting for better wellbeing. A study they launched found that the more people knitted, the calmer and happier they felt. Happy dances all round! Over half of the respondents who were clinically depressed said knitting made them feel happy or very happy. Could there be a better reason to pick up your knitting needles?
Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different.” - James Baraz, author & meditation expert
In 2009, a small study took place in a specialised, in-patient eating disorder management program, and it yielded surprising results. All of the participants were taught to knit and given access to materials; 74% reported a significant decrease in weight management preoccupations, and 53% reported a sense of pride and accomplishment. Doctors link this positive outcome with the well-known effects of knitting on mental health, applied to the detrimental effects that eating disorders can have on people.
A study at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, England found that people who suffer from chronic pain can benefit from knitting in several ways. The rhythm of knitting helps with serotonin release (the chemical transmitter that helps you regulate anxiety, happiness, and mood). Second, the social aspect of knitting circles meant that those who previously felt alienated in society due to lack of mobility had a new support network; these newfound bonds carried on after the study ended.
Unravelling the conversation around mental health
We knit because it soothes us, it relaxes us, and even heals us (just have a listen to some of the reasons why people knit). But sometimes we need a little extra help. To be human is to be a complicated tangled ball of emotions, and we need to talk about it. We’re working with Mental Health America, to help unpack those feelings, fight the stigma around mental health conditions, and help people take the right steps. First things first is understanding. We love MHA’s easy-to-use mental health screening tools which help you identify whether you’re struggling with a mental health condition and find out where to get help.
Giving is good for you
There is always a need for knitted goods – sadly, there will always be someone in the world who needs to be warmer, more comfortable or just feel loved by the gift of a knitted hat or scarf. Neonatal units always need tiny baby clothes, animal shelters need blankets, and all over the world, there are families who will be enormously thankful for donations of clothes and blankets. Consider knitting items to donate to charity to really get those good feels flowing. You can do this alone, or join a knitting group so you can make bigger projects together.
Not only will giving make you feel good on an emotional level, studies have shown that giving can also greatly boost mental and physical health. With lower blood pressure, alongside increased self-esteem, feelings of happiness and self-worth to look forward to, giving your knits to charity couldn’t be more wonderful for everyone involved. Let’s get knitting!
I learned to knit 2.5 years ago after I had been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. Medication did help me to reign in my runaway thoughts, but it wasn’t until I started knitting or crocheting everyday, that I really felt at peace.” - Stitchlinks participant
Start mindfully knitting
It’s been proven time and again through genuine scientific studies that knitting and crafting has significant benefits on both physical and mental health. The combination of the colour and texture of the knitting, paired with the rhythmic stitch makes for an immersive pastime where the mind can’t help but be present. Knitting allows the mind to slow down, yet deeply focus on the activity at hand. It is truly magic.
Therapeutic knitting patterns
Are you sitting comfortably? To practice mindful knitting, you will need, a cosy spot (your favourite armchair is calling), some dedicated quiet time (mobiles on silence please) and, of course, some mindful knitting patterns. From cosy jumpers and shawls, to honey-coloured woollen socks and simple and comforting throws, there is something here to ease your mind and get those needles moving.
Kits for mindfulness
The predictability of an outcome, can help relieve stress and induce feelings of calm. With these kits for mindfulness, you’ll find everything you need to start a project that will put your mind at ease. Knit something for yourself, for a friend, or even knit with the view to donate to charity.
Yarns for mindfulness
Texture is one of the most wonderful things about knitting. Knitting simply feels cosy in your hands, but you can make this better. Make your experience cosier by using yarns that are soft and comforting on your skin. Use colours that bring you peace, happiness, and joy. These delightful yarns are here to soothe your mind, and your skin!