Thursday, 27 April 2017

Therapeutic Knitting

Knitting For Reducing Stress

In the hubbub of everyday life I find that when I pick up my knitting, crochet project, or any other craft I have on the go, I instantly go into my own little world where everything is okay or will shortly work out on its own. Knitting has the strongest relaxation effect for me as I find it the easiest to pick up at any given time and focus on creating a beautiful piece of work when the stressed out side of my brain is about to explode from all of the outside interference.

Why I Use Knitting As Therapy

As with most people I have a lot going on in my life inside and outside of work, however my biggest stress inducer is my workplace. I work in a customer facing role in banking and I find it to be a very demanding and emotionally draining job given the customers I interact with. Over time, along with other aspects that I wont go into, this has led to a very stressful environment which has caused myself and my colleagues to search out some stress relief. 

Another reason that I knit is for managing my chronic pain. A few years ago I had a massive deep-vein thrombosis that left me in hospital for months, and now ongoing DVT pain that is difficult to control with pain killers. When my pain killers are not doing the job or reducing my pain to a manageable level I find that the meditative state and repetitive movements of knitting helps to take the edge off as I become absorbed in my project. If you would like to read more about my condition and experiences then feel free to head over to my blog Living With Factor V Leiden.

Stress and pain relief comes in many forms but as I mentioned before yarn and crafting are my sanctuaries I can always rely on when needed. I always have at least one small project on the go so that it will easily fit into my bag and I can bring it out as and when I either need it or I have some down time.

Health Benefits Of Knitting

If you suffer from any of the following symptoms (or just a general malady you can't pinpoint) and you're looking for a creative outlet then I can highly recommend knitting (or any other craft) as a therapy option:
  • Low mood
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Stress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Dementia or other mental capacity problems

How Will You Benefit

There have been numerous studies (see below for a list of sources) that have noted how knitting stimulates the brain into producing more serotonin and putting you into a calmer frame of mind and therefore you will be able to think clearly about the problem you are worried about. 

For those like myself who find that your mind continues to jump around and you have difficulty settling on a particular problem or topic that needs your attention, then knitting will help you to train your mind to focus on fewer things at a time. Knitting provides an interactive activity that has repetitive motions that cause you to focus on one or two instructions over a short period of time (however long your row takes) before you then have to refocus and set up for the next row or section. Once you have done this for a little while your brain will begin to associate this behavior with being at rest and mindful so you may end up feeling a buzz, have more energy and thinking clearer after a knitting session - I experience a meditative like sensation after approximately 30 minutes of knitting and I find it so much easier to knit than to sit down and actually meditate. 

Knitting will also allow you to experience new projects and keep you on a continuous learning curve which is great for keeping you sharp and on the ball. Many people who are suffering from diseases such as Dementia will often find that knitting helps to slow the progression of their disease and relieve some of their symptoms and isolation that they may be feeling.

What Should You Knit?

This answer is simple: knit whatever it is that you desire. If you want to start with squares for a blanket or dive straight into a complex lace pattern shawl then that's absolutely fine. Different people have different needs and various levels of engagement when it comes to gaining the benefits of knitting.

What I would personally recommend is to have a series of projects on the go that range from simple to complex so that you can pick up any projects and enjoy what you're working on. The "system" that I use is to have small projects such as socks or gloves in my bag so that I can pick them up and work on them from memory if I need a short time-out in the day, that way I don't have to really think about the pattern and I can switch my brain off and re-boot it. I then have more complex projects that run the gambit from toys, jumpers, and double knitted scarves that I tend to use as a distraction from pain. With these more complex projects I can lose myself in the intricate designs and concentrate on my knitting instead of the pain in my leg until it passes, and quite the pain will eventually pass but I be so engrossed that I will carry on until a new section is completed.

I Don't Know How To Knit!

Don't fret if you don't know how to knit but would like learn and use it to bring joy into your life. Given the range of tutorials on the internet you'll have no problem finding any number of resources, however I have compiled a handy set of tutorials on how to get started and some nice easy projects to get stuck into. Feel free to check the article out and the starter knits below: Learn How To Knit