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Study: Knitting and Crocheting Improve Mental Health

9 minute read

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It impacts our actions, the way we think, and the way we feel. It can also determine how well we handle stress and is a vital component of overall life.

A number of factors contribute to mental health but the general goal is to feel happy. People do many things to achieve positive mental health but the best options are what you might least expect.

What It Means to be Mentally Healthy

Your mental health refers to how you view life, as well as how you view yourself and the quality of relationships. Ability to manage and cope with feelings, as well as difficult situations also relates to mental health.

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Good mental health does not simply mean the absence of mental health problems. It is more than just being free of anxiety or depression or other psychological issues. In fact, there are several traits that come together to define a mentally healthy individual.

Mentally healthy people have:

♦ a sense of contentment

♦ a desire for living and the ability to have fun and laugh

♦ the ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity

♦ a sense of purpose in activities and relationships

♦ a balance between work and play

♦ the ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships

♦ flexibility to learn and adapt to change

♦ self-confidence and high self-esteem

One in five people will at some point suffer from a diagnosed mental illness or condition.  Although these problems are this common, people still make little effort to understand them, acknowledge them or to make any effort to improve their situations. 

Sadly, ignoring mental health issues is not the best course of action. Options in addition to therapy and medications are available.You just need to understand mental health a little better.

Older man sitting down lost in his thoughts

The Importance of Mental Health

Most of us ignore the emotional messages that try to tell us there is something wrong. We are afraid to admit something is wrong and we tough it out, using distractions to get us through. We ignore the problem, instead self-medicating with drugs, alcohol and other self-destructive behaviors in hope that  the mental issues will just go away.  

Denial or pushing issues aside only worsens the situation, giving up on mental health, which does not benefit overall well-being in any way.

There are a number of reasons why we opt to ignore our mental health needs or are reluctant to address the issues. Some places think of metal and emotional problems as not legitimate compared to physical issues or that they are a sign of weakness.

Some people think of mental illness as a temporary problem they can ‘snap out of’ and do not feel the need to express their emotions or concerns.This is especially true for men.  

Society pushes us to seek simple answers to complex problems, which is why we seek connection through social media. This is also why it is easier to take a pill rather than get to the root of the problem, which may take time and effort.

Additionally, most people are unaware of the options and think medication is the only solution. Avoiding side effects and the stigma of seeing a therapist, people choose to avoid confronting the issues because nobody wants to feel bad about it.

The good news is that you do not have to feel bad or ashamed or scared. Several activities may elevate your mood so you may enjoy life more and become more resilient in the process. Similar to your physical health, it takes effort and consistency to build up your mental health.

There is no quick fix; just like that miracle shake doesn’t make inches disappear from your waistline overnight. You have to work harder and really want to improve your mental health, especially because life today can take a real toll on your well-being.

Happy older woman knitting

Activities for Good Mental Health

Activities such as crocheting, knitting and making jam are not often placed high on the list of thrills, but they do place high on the list for well-being. A recent study found that certain arts and crafts cause people to feel calmer and happier.

Included along with knitting and jam-making were also cooking, painting, drawing, sketching, digital design, and creative writing. Not only was mood lifted and a more positive outlook gained, but the next day, participants in the study also had more energy.

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Each of these activities is both creative and relaxing, which benefits the brain and your body, especially in terms of stress recovery. People have enjoyed these pastimes for decades and now, these activities are finally getting the recognized for the benefits they may provide.  For anyone looking for a new project, any of these ideas will keep you busy, stimulating the mind, and improving mental health.

The research has shown that there is a definite link between creativity and emotional functioning. The relationship appears to be two-sided, with emotions being able to hamper creativity and creativity helping to promote relaxation and to promote well-being.

Engaging in a creative activity seems to improve energy and focus, as well as  well-being for the next day. This positive well-being is likely to further facilitate creative activity that day and the cycle continues.  

In addition to taking up some of these creative and relaxing activities, there are a few other changes you can make to your life to support the development of positive mental health.  

Senior friends raising their glasses at the dinner table

Tools to Support Positive Mental Health

Taking up some of these creative and relaxing activities, there are a few other changes you can make to your life to support the development of positive mental health.  

Make face-to-face connections: Humans are social creatures by nature and reaching out to others is surprisingly beneficial to your health. Interactions by phone or other media are okay, but nothing stimulates positive emotions more than physical and face-to-face contact.

Stay active: It isn’t necessary to run a marathon or hit the gym every day, but depending on your fitness level, some activity each day can boost your spirits. Take a walk in the park, or try yoga. Even better, try it with a friend or join a class. That way, you get exercise and contact all in one.  

Keep an eye on your stress: Stress is an everyday part of life but can be controlled. More accurately, you can control how you respond to it. Stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga and even leisure time with a friend or taking up a new hobby like knitting or painting can all counteract stress.

Eat healthy: Poor diet choices impact the brain and body, making it sluggish and tired.  Boost energy levels with the right foods and limit those that can adversely affect your mood, such as alcohol, high sugar foods, and caffeine. Choose fresh foods, fish, fruits, and vegetables to keep your spirits high.

Sleep well: Lack of sleep drains your body and your brain. In the short term, there is some tiredness but over time, you have less energy, cannot handle stress as well, experience mood changes, and notice a decline in cognitive abilities. If sleeping is an issue, try a few nighttime routine changes to help prepare your brain for sleep; no electronics, sleep in a cool dark room, take a hot bath or shower before bed, and try reading.  

The Bottom Line

With one in five people eventually experiencing a diagnosed mental illness or condition, maintaining and coping with mental health is essential to overall health. In addition to medication or therapy, there are numerous steps to take to improve mental health, including creative pursuits like knitting, crocheting, and jam-making. 

Mental health is not only the absence of mental illness but also the ability to be resilient, to experience life/work balance, and to establish relationships, as well as to live a life of purpose. 

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  1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/25/knitting-crocheting-jam-making-improve-mental-health-study-finds/
  2. http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/
  3. https://www.webmdhealthservices.com/2017/07/12/the-emotional-and-mental-aspects-of-well-being/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804629/
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150158/
  7. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st#