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Relax and unwind with repetition | Hand Knitting

September 13, 2023

Therapeutic, peaceful and hypnotic. Hand knitting is a powerful hobby that brings people together, challenges the mind and allows you to express your creativity. I believe it has serious super powers!

Over the last few years, since I launched the Genevieve Sweeney brand,
I have met so many people all around the world who have found a new drive in life through hand knitting. I have connected with people who have been suffering from depression or managing long-term physical pain, who have utilised their love of knitting to allow themselves to reach goals and feel a sense of accomplishment with every row knitted.

This made me think about my own personal reason for first picking up a pair of knitting needles aged five. After losing my mother very suddenly, I spent the next two years in the back of a car being driven around Europe for my father’s work. This was dull for such a young child, so my grandmother taught me how to knit to keep myself entertained on those long journeys. I would knit and reknit the same ball of space dye yarn all day, becoming hypnotised as I watched the colours change the more that I knitted. Looking back, this was such an important moment in my life, as knitting gave me motivation and distraction during an incredibly sad time.

To this day, I still use journeys as a time to create: knitting and crocheting on a train, during a flight, at trade events or, as I did as a child, on long car journeys. During my university days, I knit to relieve stress when I have a big deadline approaching. I’ve even been known to knit whilst walking. It calms me, challenges me and gives me focus – and I love the endless forms that can be created from just one simple ball of yarn.

So why is knitting such a superpower? If you knit yourself, you may recognise the points I make below. Or perhaps I will inspire you to pick up a pair of knitting needles yourself, to see if it gives you the same effect on your own mental health.

Knitting is like meditating

Numerous studies have suggested that the repetitive motion of knitting is very similar to meditation. It can be used to aid relaxation, reduce stress, minimise anxiety and to refocus your mind; decreasing your heart rate, muscle tension and blood pressure as you concentrate on your knitting. If you always like to be busy and find it hard to sit still long enough for more traditional meditation methods, knitting is the perfect solution as you are keeping your hands busy while settling your mind into a meditative-like state as you concentrate on what you are doing.

Knitting is a conversation starter

Everytime I knit in public, someone comes up to me and starts a conversation. What are you making? Who taught you to knit? Do you sell your creations? People are intrigued by crafts, especially when they see a younger person enjoying a skill which is traditionally associated with the older generations. Quite often, the people who come up and talk to me have a connection of their own with knitting – perhaps their grandmother taught them to knit when they were younger, they have recently picked up knitting needles for the first time, or it is a hobby they have always wanted to try. This gives you great confidence and boosts your self esteem, but is also a wonderful way to forge new connections and create new friendships with people who have similar interests.

Knitting can reduce the risk of dementia

Studies have shown that regular participation in activities such as knitting can lower your chance of dementia later in life, and can also slow the onset of dementia. Similarly to other hobbies that engage your brain, such as reading or completing crosswords, knitting helps to keep your brain active. Your risk of developing dementia can be reduced by regularly engaging your brain and learning complex new skills, reducing stress, being mentally and socially active, and improving your overall mood – knitting helps with all of these.

Knitting connects people

Knitting is a great way to meet like-minded people and forge new friendships. Even if you are shy or not very confident with your knitting level, joining a knitting club is an easy way to meet people as you already have something in common to talk about. In my first year of university I set up a knitting society. Within three years it grew from 10 to 250 students! I met people from different fields of study and different backgrounds who I would never have met without the knitting group, some who have become lifelong friends. I now have a regular monthly date in my diary when I teach two friends to knit as we catch up on conversations and enjoy wine and home cooked dinners.

Knitting gives you time for R&R

Knitting is the perfect way to switch off from technology and indulge in a little ‘me’ time. It gives you a break from the worries of work, scrolling on social media and constantly staring at screens, giving you time to relax with your own thoughts. If you typically find yourself glued to a screen all day (laptop, phone, TV), picking up a hobby such as knitting is a great way to pull yourself away from all that technology and take an hour or so just for you. I love that it is a transportable hobby – all you need is a ball of yarn and your knitting needles and you can knit anywhere. As I mentioned above, I knit when I’m travelling, when I’m away for work, or sometimes even when I’m in a cafe or watching live music, keeping my hands busy and my mind relaxed.

Knitting makes you happy

Knitting is one of the most calming hobbies you can take up. As mentioned above, it helps to reduce stress and anxiety, but it also acts as a distraction. Focusing on your knitting takes your mind away from anything distressing such as problems or pain. You’re also keeping your hands busy, which can help with alleviating any addictions or habits you are trying to curtail. The rhythm of knitting can even trigger the release of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’, improving your mood and sparking feelings of happiness and contentment.

Knitting can make a difference

Who doesn’t smile at the sight of Innocent smoothies in the supermarket with woolly hats perched on top of the bottle lids? Knitting projects such as Innocent smoothies ‘Big Knit’ get people together for a good cause – raising money for Age UK, in this case. There are many charitable knitting projects which you can join to raise funds, create awareness, or to knit items for people or animals in need. The UK Handknitting website is a great place to start, with a list of charity campaigns asking people to knit items to be donated – such as 4BYSIX Hats for the Homeless and Stitches of Support.

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