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Talk Therapy Might Work, But Fiber Therapy Is My Jam

Knitting as mediation blog post on fiber therapy


It seems my love of yarn and all things fiber has spread far and wide during the time of coronavirus. Before, I often enjoyed getting lost in a book when I was stressed -- but I've had more trouble focusing these days. A knitting or crochet project, though, helps transport me. 

Turns out, I'm not alone. An international survey of over 3,500 knitters found "...a significant relationship between knitting frequency and feeling calm and happy."  And, there's some physical science behind the feeling -- the act of knitting actually reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, much like meditation does. 

Some Science Around Knitting 

Here are some things that struck me in researching the health benefits of fiber arts. 
  • Knitting makes for good self-care: Its repetitiveness helps one get in a flow state, providing relief from stress.
  • Knitting induces the relaxation response: It lowers heart rate, blood pressure, reduces muscle tension and can help insomnia, depression and anxiety. 
  • Knitting can improve mood: According to a survey of knitters who suffered from depression, 81% perceived that knitting made them feel happier, with 54% claiming to feel happy or very happy after knitting.
  • Knitting can lead to the desire and confidence to acquire other new skills: According to a survey of knitters, over half (57%) said that knitting “usually” or “definitely” encouraged them to learn new skills, including other crafts, DIY, cooking, gardening, or computer skills.
  • Knitting may help with trauma: After the Civil War and World War I, soldiers with shell-shock (what we call PTSD today) were treated in part with learning to knit. (For more on this, see my blog post Fiber Art Therapy for Soldiers).
  • Creating textiles through knitting and other art has therapeutic value: It allows for self-expression, the process provides psychological grounding, and it can help meet social fulfillment needs. 

The Research

Want to fall down the rabbit hole of nerdy knitting data? Read on, and be well:

1) Knit, Purl, Heal, Piecework Magazine, October 28, 2020

2) Knit One, Play One: Comparing the Effects of Amateur Knitting and Amateur Music Participation on Happiness and Wellbeing, Applied Research in Quality of Life, by Alexandra Lamont & Nellinne Antoinette Ranaweera, May 29, 2019. 

3) The Impact of a Knitting Intervention on Compassion Fatigue in Oncology Nurses, Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, February 2016.

4) The Health Benefits of Knitting, The New York Times, by Jane E. Brody, January 25, 2016.

5) The Health Benefits of Knitting, The Sacramento Bee, by Sammy Caiola, October 7, 2014.

6) Knitting and Well-being, Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, by Betsan Corkhill, March 2014.

7) The Benefits of Knitting for Personal and Social Wellbeing in Adulthood: Findings from an International Survey, British Journal of Occupational Therapy, February 2013. 

8) THERAPEUTIC KNITTING STUDY DAY, Conference Manuscript "Knitting to Facilitate Change," June 15, 2012. 

9) The Well-Being of Women Who Create With Textiles: Implications for Art Therapy, Art Therapy, by Ann Futterman Collier, September 2011. 

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