Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Knitting for Your Health---your BRAIN health

Interestingly, knitting has been shown in studies to produce similar results for our health as how SSRI's or Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors, function in our bodies. SSRI's are medications such as Prozac, Zoloft, etc. I'm sure this would apply to any form of needlework as well.

 Serotonin is our "feel good" hormone in the brain.

In 2009, there is an article specifically explaining how the connection between the repetition in knitting helps to prevent and manage stress. As stress is a big root cause of many health conditions, I have an interest in exactly how this effects us as knitters.

As an adjunct therapy, or non-pharmacologic intervention, for anxiety or stress, I do believe learning to knit or any kind of needlework is worthy of mentioning in health plans of care. However, most conventional providers will not offer this information for various reasons. If you are thinking of learning to knit or do any needlework, be assured that studies are ongoing in the relation of how knitting/needlework creates changes in brain chemistry that increase serotonin. Some studies have already shown great positive results.

The effect is very similar to yoga or meditation. In this day and time of increased stress in the environment, this is very positive to know and incorporate a fun, learning repetition that our brains then use to lower cortisol, the stress hormone. When cortisol is lowered, our risks for heart disease, high blood pressure, and many other major health issues are less. Long term pain management and depression also improves.

So next time you pick up your needles or whatever kind or size, know that you are adding some goodness to your health and changing your brain chemistry to decrease your response to stress and illness.

I think we all have laughed and said that cross stitching and/or knitting is cheaper than therapy at some point, but now we know there really are some physical changes that it creates in crafting to provide stress relief. We all have felt that joy in knitting almost like a runner's high.

Linda's blog Under the Gables, has a great little snippet here about how knitting actually was implemented at Walter Reed army hospital in 1918 with soldiers. It's an interesting read.

Hilliary's blog, Make It and Mend It,  also has a great short article on knitting's therapeutic benefits.

Stephanie, at  The Yarn Harlot,  has a more in depth article of her study of the research of other brain chemistry effects of knitting. VERY interesting to take a look-see. She mentions the chemical dopamine, which is another hormone in the pleasure center in our brain being increased. In fact, for example, part of the smoking cessation medications involve dopamine. I just find this really interesting, especially for women's health, although many men find knitting pleasurable as well.

Could one day possibly a script for knitting be given  to try for smoking cessation? hmmmmmmmm.

And if it keeps our brain clicking and reduces anxiety, could there be benefits in Alzheimer's in the future????

These are a few of the things that I like to delve deeper into with my background in nursing. If you have time to read only one posting, I think Stephanie's is the most intriguing.

My oldest pair of acquired, vintage knitting needles. Tortoise shell and silver with engraved "F".

 I wonder how many hearts and souls were mended while making beautiful projects with them? 
If needles could talk! 

In summary knitting can:

  •  steep your mind into creative thinking and forget the stress of the times. The immersion of ourselves in knitting allows hormones like serotonin and dopamine in our brains to naturally increase and subsequently reduce stress, feelings of depression, anxiety and increased immune functioning.

  •   The rhythmic nature of knitting lowers cortisol which is similar to effects of yoga and meditation. Cortisol in higher quantities can cause detrimental aging effects.

  •  the process of learning new patterns and challenging ourselves to expand our comfort zones in knitting, builds our self-esteem and helps us in life to do the same.

  •  knitting can increase social life, whether online or in person, through groupings with others who love to connect about this passion, developing our social skills.

All comments are welcome on this topic!!!! I love to learn more.

Till later,

Disclaimer: please go by the advice of your healthcare provider in medical management of stress- related illnesses which may include medication. I in no part am recommending to substitute the advice of your healthcare provider with this information. The information is intended to increase awareness in part of good general health.

1 comment:

  1. Since starting to knit last December I have noticed many of these differences in my health already. I feel more relaxed when I knit and I'm hoping that by challenging my brain to learn something different than stitching will help to keep it active too!


Your comments are so welcome here! Thank you for taking time out to share insights into the knitting world. God bless and hope you have a beautiful day!