We have all heard of late about pastimes such as knitting and crochet being great for our mental health. Obviously this is great news for those, like myself, who love nothing more than diving into a new yarn project. Being in tune with our moods is so important. I know if I spend too much time alone on screen-based activities or long hours indoors I end up feeling a little flat. If I get outside in the light and the air, stretch and move my body, pick up my trusty knitting/crochet or sing (not great for those in earshot) I start to feel much better. Being in tune with our body and moods and noticing the signs can help us enormously to manage how we feel.
So why do these things make me feel better? Reflecting on this I believe the singing works wonders as it involves managing my breathing, filling my lungs with air and concentrating on technique. I am an atrocious singer, but it isn't about how it sounds but how it makes the me feel. Similarly with getting outdoors, I believe it is the fresh air and light, the warmth on the skin and the blood pumping through a moving body that makes me feel so much better.
So what about when it comes to knitting and crochet? I am quite often inside, sitting still on the lounge and most likely not singing at the same time. So why the elevation in mood? I suspect that is more a case of the focus on the task at hand. Attending to the pattern and concentrating on the physical act of crocheting itself. A kind of mindfulness of sorts, where I am taking the mind away from things that might otherwise worry me and effect my mood.
All good to postulate why this occurs but what does the research say? A study by Riley, Corkhill & Morris in 2013 surveyed 3, 545 knitters online. It was commonly reported by the subjects that they found knitting to be relaxing and a great stress reliever. Interestingly the authors found "a significant relationship between frequency of knitting and feeling calm" along with a sense of increased cognitive functioning.
Similarly in a study by Adey (2017) she refers to the "Theory of Flow" as put forward by Csikszentmihalyi in 1992. This "flow" refers to activities that require complete attention, some level of challenge and a sense of control. As Adey (2017) puts forward, when knitting is considered within this theory it becomes clear why knitters report the easing of worries, relaxation and a sense of autonomy. Further to these studies, more research has been carried out with similar positive results.
So in short, the research shows that engaging in creative activities such as knitting and crochet can only do us good. It really is no wonder that these crafts are becoming increasingly popular as we attempt to escape somewhat from our busy and demanding lives. The upshot therefore is to not feel at all guilty when reaching for the needles or hook and plonking oneself down onto the lounge - you are taking care of your health and that can only be a good thing. I do wonder though if there are any studies into unfinished works in progress but I think we will leave that topic for another day ...