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How I Used Knitting as Craft Therapy to Improve My Mental Health

Moloneymakes Super Chunky Knitting. Bamboo Needles, Vegan Yarn and Koel Magazine

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Unleash knitting’s therapeutic benefits, practice mindfulness meditation and discover a moment of calm

What made you start knitting, then? How did you get started?“. It’s a question I receive often, talking to customers when trading at markets, or introducing myself to a new group of people, but its response is always something I am eager to share. Knitting impacted my life hugely in the most positive way possible. In short, knitting’s therapeutic benefits are what fuelled me to create Moloneymakes and continues to influence the direction it is heading.

So how did it have such an impact?

 

Mindfulness meditation

Did you know knitting, yarn crafts, or any sort of craft for that matter, enforces something called mindfulness meditation within us?

I know, I know – Mindfulness and meditation are both such buzzwords right now. Ones which may conjure up images of your typical zen yogi chick in elephant print pants, sat in lotus position ‘om’ing. But trust me when I say it’s FAR more accessible than that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slating aforementioned yogi chick; I AM aforementioned yogi (although perhaps minus the elephants). However, this powerful calming technique is there for everyone, yoga pants or not.

Focus on the present moment

Mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”; “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique” (Oxford Dictionary).

This basically means mindfulness meditation is a method where you are encouraged to find a moment of calm and stay focussed in the present moment.

And it works!

Even the smallest amount of mindfulness meditation will help to reduce stress levels and alleviate anxiety and depression. I think we’d all agree, in today’s society, this is something we’d all benefit from practising.

Knitting’s therapeutic benefits drew me in

The mindfulness element that knitting provides was precisely what saw me attached to my needles, thus kick starting my small knitting biz journey.

During my university years, I fell ill, caught up in the depths of anorexia and mental illness. I found myself lost and consumed in a black cloud that suffocated me. Unsurprisingly, when I took the first tentative steps towards eating disorder recovery, I needed some support, a therapeutic technique to help me cope with the mind chatter that, at times, became unbearably overwhelming.

It was crucial for me to be able to keep my hands busy and my mind distracted when my anxiety was at its worst. An easy knitting project was the perfect solution.

I’m not alone in using knitting as craft therapy

Back in 2009, the brains of the Psychiatry department at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada carried out a study on 38 women in a specialised unit for Eating Disorder sufferers and the results were pretty conclusive. which would only aid them during their eating disorder recovery

A massive 74% reported lessened intensity of fears and thoughts and found their minds were cleared of eating disorder preoccupations whilst knitting. A further 74% reported favourably of its calming, therapeutic benefits. With stats like that, it’s evident that crafting can be a powerful tool during eating disorder recovery

What’s more, 53% of the participants reported knitting provided considerable amounts of satisfaction, pride and a sense of accomplishment . I challenge anyone to not show even a hint of a smile after spending just 20 minutes crafting in general, let alone when it results in a finished kickass knitting project that will keep you warm all winter!

Crafting can benefit ANYONE, eating disorder recovery or otherwise

Knitting is relaxing and keeps us centred with its repetitive rhythmic movements. After just a few minutes you can see a reduction in your heart rate and your blood pressure lowers. The management of stress/anxiety/pain also contributes to helping you maintain a level of good mental health. This, in turn, strengthens the body’s immune and nervous systems.

Happy mind, happy body and that’s just for starters!

I won’t bore you with all the fancy science-y stuff

but the benefits of mindfulness are regularly researched by neuroscientists and are continually celebrated. A fairly recent 2015 study showed that mindfulness dampens activity in the amygdala (which represents the core fear system in the body; it’s the reason we are afraid of things beyond our control) and increases connection from the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex (the bit responsible for our decision making and influencing our behaviour).

The two combined helps us to be less reactive to stressors and recover better when we experience it. Let’s face it, no one wants a brain which crumbles and leaves us crying when Barry at the office dumps a pile of paperwork on our desk before we’ve even had chance to grab that all important morning coffee.

Luckily for us, we can experience knitting’s therapeutic benefits within just a few minutes of picking up our needles. This extends beyond yarn crafts too so don’t feel you have to limit yourself.

Knitting for me is a moment for myself

It’s an opportunity to relax. I can turn my attention inward, distance myself from the mind chatter and lose myself in the soothing stitch repetition.

It’s a chance to listen to my favourite podcasts or talk with a friend. I can binge watch TV as I rack up the rows on my latest project. Knitting allows my mind to slow down, yet remain active, focussed on the activity at hand. It’s a time for contemplation, relaxation and peace.

A snippet of time just for me.

What are you waiting for?

Don’t just listen to me bangin’ on about it; give it a go yourself! Dig out those old knitting needles, find an easy knitting kit, or a super cool knitting pattern to try out, buy some beautiful yarn from your local shop and enjoy the tactility of all the gorgeous squishy squishness.

A moment of calm is just a few stitches away.

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