Why more and more people are turning to mindful crafting to care for their mental health
It has been well established that stress can lead to mental health problems, and can exacerbate other medical conditions. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to beating stress, craft activities such as knitting, crochet and sewing can help bring about feelings of calm and restore equilibrium.
A 2016 survey by Cardiff University surveyed over 3,500 craft fans and found that the more frequently people knitted, the happier and calmer they reported they felt. A huge 81 percent of respondents said they felt much happier after knitting, and 54 percent of those with ill mental health said that knitting made them feel very happy.
The website Love Knitting says that the craft can be physically beneficial as well. Trials in the U.S. are looking at how knitting can improve arthritis, as it forces fluid towards cartilage, and thus keeping joints hydrated.
Like the flow of yoga postures, knitting uses the repetition of physical movements to calm the heart rate and breathing, creating a feeling of stability and inner quiet.
Therapist and keen knitter Betsan Corkhill explains, “it’s the rhythmic, repetitive movements of knitting or sewing that are important. This is a type of mindfulness which can affect a change in your state of mind.”
Corkhill is the founder of Stitchlinks, an organisation which aims to further the therapeutic benefits of knitting.
“Knitting is an effective, easily accessible tool that everyone can use to manage daily stresses,” she says. “But, it is also a valuable self-help tool for those dealing with more serious mental health issues or medical conditions.”
The charity Rethink Mental Illness has long recognised the positive role that crafting can play in maintaining good mental health. The charity has helped Jo, who has borderline personality disorder, practice crochet as a way to help her manage some of the symptoms.
Jo says, “My condition presents itself in various ways but the constant theme is self-criticism, the never-ending internal monologue ‘I should have seen that coming’, ‘I need to be better’ ,’ I’m not good enough’ seeps into every aspect of my life – this has led to me judging everything I do,” she explains. “I’ve always been an arty person and as far back as I can remember I was never happier than when drawing or colouring. This passion stayed with me, the enjoyment of creating, and the phrase ‘process over progress’ is a mantra I use daily.”
Mindfulness can be a difficult technique to teach, particularly to those who need it the most – the highly stressed or those experiencing depression. One of try greatest aspects of taking up knitting is how easy it is to learn, and it can open up the benefits of mindfulness to everyone.
Knitting can leave you feeling more in touch with the world and yourself, and there’s the added bonus of creating something. Even if that something is a wonky scarf with plenty of dropped stitches. It turns out our grandmas really were on to something.