Taking time to destress and be creative has great benefits, both physically and mentally. Take knitting, for example:
It turns out that knitting has incredible health benefits. It makes people feel good in just about every way. A bit of research has revealed a wide range of ways in which knitting helps humans cope, physically and mentally.
1. Knitting is used for therapy. It’s a powerful distractant, helping people manage long-term physical pain. For those who are depressed, knitting can motivate them to connect with the world. It is a conversation starter, allowing people to interact politely without making eye contact. It builds confidence and self-esteem.
2. Knitting is supremely relaxing, which is extremely important for reducing stress and anxiety. Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, wrote The Relaxation Response, in which he recommends the repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity to elicit “the relaxation response” – decreased heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure. Knitting is likened to meditation, sometimes described by knitters as “spiritual” and “Zen-like.”
I have always felt like I SHOULD learn how to knit, but I actually find the idea of having to keep count and keep track of where I’m at stressful, but maybe I should just give it a try. Thoughts? Leave them in the comments below.
This time of year, when it gets dark and cold, we make our spaces brighter and cheerier with lights and greenery and sweet, rich food. Or, in this case, some nicely knitted decorations to share and brighten up a public space:
A pompom here, a knitted ornament there, Everett has been hit by a yarn bomber.
“I just wanted to spread some Christmas cheer,” Renee Walstad said.
Walstad is part of a warm-and-fuzzy movement being embraced by creative types all over the world.
Her efforts are modest compared with the ways some yarn artists decorate public places. For some yarn bombers, what began as a covert operation has blossomed into commissioned public art projects.
Since early this month, Walstad, 28, has been putting knitted and crocheted decorations on Everett’s downtown sculptures. She calls it a “Yarnvent calendar.”
“You know, like Advent,” the Lake Stevens woman said. “Every day before Christmas, I put up an ornament.”
If you stopped for coffee on Everett’s Colby Avenue on Wednesday, you may have noticed Walstad’s cheery calling cards. Near the Starbucks shop, the statue of three little girls holding hands — Georgia Gerber’s “Along Colby” — finds the girls dressed for the season in knitted red and green anklets. One of the bronze figures held a knitted Christmas ornament.
Creating something with your hands, learning a craft, and being successful with something even as simple as crochet can have huge positive effects on people. That effect that be even more significant if you’ve been a screw-up your whole life, as many people behind bars feel they have been. This story about bringing knitting workshops to prisons is a great example, similar to the Puppies Behind Bars program or helping to raise endangered frogs, of how doing something as simple as a pearl and stitch can have huge psychologically positive impacts.
In late 2009, Lynn Zwerling stood in front of 600 male prisoners at the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup, Maryland. “Who wants to knit?” she asked the burly crowd. They looked at her like she was crazy.
Yet almost two years later, Zwerling and her associates have taught more than 100 prisoners to knit, while dozens more are on a waiting list to take her weekly class. “I have guys that have never missed one time in two years,” Zwerling says. “Some reported to us that they miss dinner to come to class.”
Zwerling, 67, retired in 2005 after 18 years of selling cars in Columbia, Maryland. She didn’t know what to do with her time, so she followed her passion and started a knitting group in her town. No one came to the first meeting, but the group quickly grew to 500 members. “I looked around the room one day and I saw a zen quality about it,” Zwerling says. “Here were people who didn’t know each other, had nothing in common, sitting together peacefully like little lambs knitting. I thought, ‘It makes me and these people feel so good. What would happen if I took knitting to a population that never experienced this before?’”
Her first thought was to bring knitting to a men’s prison, but she was turned down repeatedly. Wardens assumed the men wouldn’t be interested in a traditionally feminine hobby and worried about freely handing out knitting needles to prisoners who had been convicted of violent crimes. Five years passed before the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup accepted her, and Knitting Behind Bars was born. “I [wanted to teach] them something that I love that I really believe will make them focus and happy,” Zwerling says. “I really believe that it’s more than a craft. This has the ability to transform you.”
In 2009, Juliana Santacruz Herrera began filling Paris’s potholes with elaborate knitted plugs; she called it “Projet Nid de Poule” (Project Pothole). What the yarn lacks in durability it makes up for in whimsy.