How Knitting Relieves Stress

Let’s be honest; this after this year we could all use some stress relief. There are many ways to blow off steam but knitting is especially effective in reducing stress. Not only does knitting give the knitter something to focus on to get out of their head, it actually reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol. A reduction in stress hormone is just as good for your mental health as it sounds but the benefits don’t end there. Knitting also triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, chemicals which result in satisfaction and happiness. Serotonin and dopamine are often called natural antidepressants for their importance in brain chemistry. Increased mood and self-esteem have been reported by many knitters. The two-pronged effect of busy hands and a busy mind helps to banish anxiety and take attention from pain and stress. Research shows that the brain reacts to knitting very similarly to yoga and meditation, boosting focus and lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Meditation, yoga and knitting all cause the same type of brainwave pattern, proving their deep similarity in effect on the mind and body.

Color and texture can impact stress as well, with colors like blue and green causing a relaxing effect and reds and yellows an energizing one. Teal embodies serenity and renewal and is an ideal color for creative spaces. Surround your craft space with colors and images that make you feel at ease. Consider keeping a house plant at your workspace, houseplants have been found to increase people’s creativity and reduce stress just by existing in a space! Some find that a highly decorated workspace inspires them while others prefer a simple space to aid in focus. Experiment with what works for you to create your perfect craft space. Lighting a candle and brewing some tea will activate the senses with scents to create a relaxing atmosphere. Scents like chamomile and lavender are especially relaxing for many people. Always keep a close eye on an open flame when you are working with yarn! Finally, consider creating a knitting playlist with your favorite music to knit to. Instrumental music is a favorite for mindful knitting because it lacks distracting lyrics. You may even find yourself knitting to the beat.

Once you have the perfect workstation, knitting can lead to mindfulness and a mental state called “Flow”. The flow state is commonly called being “In the Zone” and is the result of practice and attention. People who experience the flow state describe it as energizing and fulfilling, making them feel competent and productive. Flow and mindfulness are quite similar, and both are stress relieving. The repetitive rhythmic action of knitting stimulates multiple areas of the brain allowing the knitter to use their mind while their hands are busy. Many people choose to use that brain power to knit with others and socialize which boosts mood and helps build community. Having a good community to interact with reduces anxiety and aids in forming meaningful friendships.  If the knitter chooses instead to turn the mind inward to practice mindfulness there are many benefits. This kind of mindful knitting is considered the most relaxing and can help people organize and process thoughts as well as reduce stress. 

If knitting is still difficult for you and doesn’t feel relaxing simply know that the more you practice the more easily your stitches will flow. The road to mindful knitting begins with a single step and every step on the path brings you closer to the mental and physical benefits of mindfulness. Like yoga and meditation, no one is an expert overnight. Practicing for a short time each day will build your skills and before you know it you will be able to “Zen out” while you knit. Experienced knitters and beginners alike can choose patterns based on difficulty to control how relaxing a project will be. Start with a simple pattern in one to two colors and large swatches of one type of stitch. These will be the most consistent and relaxing. A higher level of challenge can be frustrating in the short term but results in immense satisfaction when the difficult project pays off.

Need some inspiration? Here are three free patterns to try knitting mindfully: