The NY Times just published an article entitled “The Health Benefits of Knitting” by Jane E. Brody – a quick, good read if you get a chance.
There was one quote in this article that definitely hit home for me:
…when my hands are busy, my mind stays focused on the here and now
Since I was a child I always liked creating things with my hands – I’ve always been drawn to being “a maker”. And I’ve noticed as an adult how much this has helped me in life. As the article describes, being a maker (and for me specifically, a knitter), has provided me with a way to exercise mindfulness, even in the most stressful of times.
As an example, the last year and a half for me has been, well, challenging I guess is the best way to describe it. My husband had been very sick, being diagnosed with an aggressive form of the fungal disease called Coccidioidomycosis (those of you in Arizona and California are probably quite familiar with this disease, otherwise known as Valley Fever). It disseminated in his lungs and caused him to be hospitalized 4 times in the last year and a half, the last time being this past summer to have a good chunk of his left lung removed. I can’t imagine all those hours sitting in the hospital without my knitting. It allowed me to quiet the constant “What if?” thoughts that swirled around my mind like a tornado day after day. In a way it allowed time to stop for me – instead of constantly focusing on what the next hour, day or week would bring, it allowed my mind to simply focus on the row I was working on and the feel of the yarn in my fingers. As the article explains:
…the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state like that associated with meditation and yoga. Once you get beyond the initial learning curve, knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Now of course it didn’t make all the anxiety go away, but it allowed me to find a way to “be” with my anxiety, sitting with it and giving it space and time. My mom once told me a quote that went something like “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Now, I wasn’t doing any dancing during this time, but the idea is about being ok with whatever life is in the moment. And knitting helps facilitate this for me. And I hope it does (or will) for you too!
As a side note, my husband is doing much better these days. There’s no cure for Valley Fever but it’s under control right now and his health has been much more stable. If you live or visit the southwest of the U.S (especially Arizona or the San Joaquin Valley of California), I recommend learning about the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever. It’s very easy to contract (you just have to breath in the spores that float in the air) but early diagnosis is key. Not everyone will get so sick from the disease, but knowledge is key. My husband’s problem was that he got it over 15Â years ago and went undiagnosed for so long.