Mental health problems are very common – but nearly nine out of ten people who have them say they face stigma and discrimination, which makes life even more difficult. Tomorrow (5th February) is “Time to Talk Day“, run by the charity Time to Change, who are working hard to encourage us to talk about mental health, and share our stories. At LoveKnitting we hear time and time again how knitting can help with mental health problems – read on to find out why….
Any knitter reading this post will not be surprised to learn that knitting is one of the most effective ways to help with anxiety, depression and pain management. Mental health news stories fill columns of magazines and newspapers every day with new treatments and new ways to manage anxiety, but knitters have long known the benefits of their gentle craft.
Studies by Stitchlinks, the brainchild of Betsan Corkill, have explored how knitting and other crafts can improve low self esteem, help with stress, fear, anxiety and worry and give people a rewarding, purposeful occupation – and a route out of social isolation and loneliness. Stitchlinks encourages and promotes the use of therapeutic knitting and stitching through their research – working with clinicians and therapists to explore how craft can really make a difference to stress, anxiety, depression, dexterity and pain management.
Not only are there some truly inspirational personal stories and quotes on the Stitchlinks website but details too about the research that has been carried out to study the health benefits of knitting. Read more about Stitchlinks’ research.
“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)
We know that the simple action of a rhythmic stitch, the joy of colour and texture, and the immense achievement of creating something brings great satisfaction. Knitting refocuses the mind, slows the breathing and calms the senses.
“Our work indicates that creative ability is closely linked with wellbeing, psycholgical flexibility and the ability to self-manage and problem solve.” Stitchlinks.
- Starting off: ask someone to teach you if you don’t know how to knit. Most knitters are only too happy to share their skills and bring others into the knitting community. If you’d prefer to teach yourself, try our simple knitting guides.
- Picking it up, putting it down: to start with, choose something simple that you can pick up and put down – a simple garter stitch scarf in a beautiful yarn, or a plain calming colour. Smaller projects like blanket squares or crochet granny squares can be worked individually and then methodically put together are brilliant because they are portable and each square is a project you can complete on its own. Sky blankets are a very popular way of observing the day (and the progression of days) taking a knitted snapshot of the sky at midday every day for a year is a wonderful therapy to record mood and the passing of time. We love this Sky Blanket from one of our favourite bloggers, Leanne, who has written our brilliant Learn with Leanne series.
“Knitting is not a tangled mess, it is a highly ordered series of stitches and processes that requires thought and mindful focus. “
- Lifting spirits with colour: there are great swathes of words written about the benefits of colour and colour therapy but simply, we all know how much better we feel in bright sunlight, or how happy we are wearing our favourite colours! The world of yarn is a world of colour! There isn’t a blend or a shade that hasn’t been reproduced in this yarny kaleidoscope! Knit with your favourite colours, with variegated blends or create stripes and patterns – colour has the power to enlighten, soothe and bring joy, all of which can be brought to life in your knitting!
- Working with texture: chunky, super soft fast knits or fine, intricate lace – whatever makes your heart sing! There are fashion yarns to try – like fur, eyelash, bouclé and chenille, yarns threaded through with sparkle or thick and thin textures to keep the senses delighted!
- Bringing people together: the simple act of knitting in a group for an hour, having a cup of tea and a piece of cake, chatting, learning a new stitch, or just comparing notes can enable many people to take an outing that they might not otherwise be brave enough to face. Isolation and loneliness are sadly all too common in our bright new world, where once communities looked after each other more diligently – but joining a knitting group, or a crochet group to share some gentle time together can transform a life. It sounds dramatic, but a knitting or crochet group can be a lifeline.
- Working on a joint project: crafting in a group and working together to create blankets for charity, or clothes for people who really need them can be hugely enjoyable and fulfilling. There is always a need for knitted goods – 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! Neo-natal 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, blankets and yarn. Knit for Peace is an international charity that is always looking for volunteer knitters and donations of knitting and yarn – they have groups to join, or you can create your own!
Links for more information:
The UK Hand Knitting Association has some interesting links on Knitting Therapy.
Stitchlinks – information on research and all of the health benefits of knitting and craft.
The Craft Yarn Council has a fabulous section on knitting and health.
LoveKnitting blog – how to cast on with links to knitting, purling and casting off.
Has knitting helped you cope with mental health issues or stress? We’d love to hear from you if you would like to share your stories. Either tell us more in the comments, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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