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10 Most Important Health Benefits of Yarncrafting

May 20th, 2014

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Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo is an expert in the area of using crafting to heal, having researched the topic extensively for her book Crochet Saved My Life. This is part one in her 6-part series for us on the topic of yarncraft health. Read her previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here

Yarn heals. Whether you prefer needles or hooks or a combination of both, crafting can soothe your body and mend your mind. Anecdotal evidence has shown this for decades and new research confirms it with science. The benefits people report are seemingly endless. Here are the top 10 yarncrafting health benefits.

1. Knitting and Crochet Relieve Depression

Depression relief is by far the most reported and studied benefit of crochet and knitting. The repetition of the crafts has been shown to release serotonin, a natural anti-depressant. CNN recently reported that “in one study of more than 3,500 knitters, published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting. More than half reported feeling “very happy.”

Knit Aromatherapy Eye Pillow
Knit & Crochet Aromatherapy Eye Pillow

2. Crafting Reduces Anxiety

Yarncrafts helps with various forms of anxiety. It keeps your hands busy and mind focused so that you can attend classes or events even when you have social anxiety. It brings the internal mind to a calmer space for when you’re coping with the anxiety of repetitious thoughts. The counting has even been shown to serve as a productive outlet for people with anxiety associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as eating disorders. The Craft Yarn Council reports on one study that showed nearly ¾ of women with anorexia found knitting to be calming and anxiety-reducing.

3. Projects Build Self-Esteem

knit+crochetLow self-esteem has a variety of negative health impacts. Crafting helps build self-esteem by:

  • Building new skills
  • Allowing the crafter to feel productive
  • Providing a useful way to give to others
  • Creating beauty through self-expression

Simply visualizing, working on and then creating a product can make you feel better about yourself. This has helped people with everything from coping with the fear of unemployment to gaining the strength to leave abusive relationships.

4. Crafting May Reduce or Postpone Dementia

Several studies have shown that knitting and crochet can postpone age-related memory loss. The crafts can also be soothing for those people who are already experiencing signs of dementia. Recently, researcher Yonas Geda, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, completed a study that showed knitting is neuroprotective and may reduce dementia by as much as 50%.

5. Knit or Crochet Through Insomnia

Insomnia is a terrible feeling. You are tired but you can’t sleep so then you’re frustrated that you can’t sleep, which just makes it harder to sleep. Yarncrafts to the rescue! Focus on a soft, soothing, easy, repetitive crochet or knit project and your body and mind can often wind down enough to get to bed. Stitchlinks, a UK organization that does research into the benefits of knitting, reports that a study by professor Herbert Benson of the Mind/Body Medical Institute found that 100% of insomnia patients reported improved sleep with 90% being able to eliminate medication in a program that included knitting.

6. Relaxation Reduces Irritability and Restlessness

We recently shared how you can craft your way through cabin fever. Crochet and knitting can help you through any times when you feel grumpy, restless, frustrated or bored. This positive outlet preserves your relationships and keeps your mood balanced.

7. Crafting as Prayer

Prayer has been proven to have a diverse array of health benefits. Crochet and knitting can be used as part of your prayer process. See our articles on Prayer Shawl Crafting and How to Create a Sacred Space for Crafting.

8. Yarncrafting Builds Community

No matter what health issue you are dealing with, it helps to have a community of support around you. There are so many ways that crochet and knitting provide community:

• Through local knit-ins and crochet-in-public meetups
• At fiber fairs and related events
• Informally through connections at yarn stores
• In the many online craft communities
• Through a sense of being tied to the generations before and after us

Check out our ideas for crafting with family and friends.

9. Crafting Helps with Grief Processing

Loss is a horrible thing and none of us escape it. During periods of deep grief it can seem impossible that you’ll ever be able to function again. You get in your pajamas and stay in your bed and feel like the world has come to an end. Crochet and knitting can be one of the most comforting things during this time. It’s something that you can do without a lot of money or effort. It’s something you can do in small bits, when you have the energy. It can, for a moment, take your mind off of your pain. The textures and colors of the yarn, the warmth of the item that you’re creating and the beautiful up/down motion of stitch upon stitch can get you one day closer to feeling okay again.

10. Stress-Busting Benefits of Yarncrafting

Stress is one of our leading health problems. Its effects range from migraines and fatigue to heart failure and early memory loss. Reducing stress reduces disease. Using knitting or crochet as meditation can be a daily way to minimize the effects of stress in your life.

What’s the number one way that knitting or crochet heals you?

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Read Part Two: 5-Step Guide to Creating your own Yarncrafting Wellness Plan

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  • scot_belle

    I started knitting and crocheting as a child. Whenever life has given me lemons – I have tended to pick up my hooks or needles as I worked through the stress – to a solution for making.. lemonade. It has never ceased to amaze me…. how fast my working with ny hands can calm me. *S*

  • Psychbucket

    Crocheting knocks my stress level right on down. The repetition is soothing, and it is satisfying to see my project grow. There are so many things in modern day life that you work at so hard and don’t see results quickly, if at all. Crocheting gives me results every time I do it, without fail. It is a small certainty that can be a considerable comfort in an uncertain world.

  • flopsy

    i have a muscle condition in my hands and if don’texercise them they get clumsy and i drop everything. kiting seems to be the perfect exercise .

  • Tara

    I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and I whole heartedly agree. I am a somewhat young crocheter and my psychiatrist had suggested a year ago that I pick up a hobby for some relief. I chose crochet and It DID save my sanity. I channeled my anxiety into it making items and giving them away to others including items to the baby ward at the hospital. I crocheted so much I made once made three afghans in a week. I still make sweaters and afghans religiously and give them away and it has healed me tremendously. I always suggest this to people and friends I meet who are suffering from any disorder or trouble. My most favorite thing to do is to choose Baby Soft, the softest baby yarn I have ever found, and make beautiful baby items for the local hospital. I love thinking about families being given my items for their newborn struggling in the NICU to comfort them in the tiniest way of thinking about a newborn being wrapped in my afghan. Just give it a try. It doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow. You don’t have to be perfect. It can help you.

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