If you ask anyone what the worst part of their working day is, I’m sure most people would say the insufferably dull and arduous commute to and from work. Late trains, little to no air-conditioning, packed in like sardines and as a result, being forced to stand awkwardly underneath someone’s sweaty armpit.
While aimlessly scrolling through Spotify to try and find a playlist that would sufficiently drown out train announcements and the smell of pits, I looked over to a young woman leant against the Tube door to see her knitting the most vibrant yellow scarf. Amongst the rush-hour stress, she was undoubtedly relaxed and in her own world. This encouraged the question: is there more to knitting than the WI?
While in the past, knitting was a necessity to making warm clothing and blankets, now it’s a craft that all ages can enjoy, and it brings with it a slew of health-boosting benefits. Besides being a cool and classic skill to have under your belt, it can ultimately be life-changing for both your mental and physical health.
At a TED talk in 2004, psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi noted that when a person is completely absorbed by an activity, nothing else seems to matter. Contributing to pioneering work of our understanding of happiness, creativity, human fulfilment, he discussed the notion of “flow” – a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art. “When we are involved in creativity, we feel that we are living more fully than the rest of life,” Csikszentmihalyi said. “You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult and a sense of time disappears. You forget yourself and you feel part of something larger.”
Some experts equate the benefits of craft-induced “flow” with those of meditation and mindfulness. This physical state of deep rest can change physical and emotional responses to stress, decreasing heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing and muscle tension. Frequent meditation acts as a form of mental exercise that can help regulate your memory and attention span, heighten cognitive functioning while improving general well-being and there’s evidence that crafting may have the same effect.
Knitting can also give the crafter a sense of purpose. One of the worst feelings is when you feel lost but having a crafting project gives you a goal and it is incredibly fulfilling. As the years go by, more and more people – young and old – are getting hooked on the craft, joining social knitting groups all over the country, sharing beautiful patterns and knitting everything from beanies to potted plants and yarn bombing.
All in all, next time your Grandma offers to teach you how to knit, take her up on the offer and hey, you’ll get a scarf out of it!