So, how is crochet good for your health? You’ve all probably heard of crochet or have some kind of idea what it is right? That thing that’s a bit like knitting, but not. Well, crochet is a little like knitting in that you pull yarn (wool or thread) through a loop to create a stitch. However, whilst knitting involves a row of active stitches (loops), crocheting only uses one loop or stitch at a time. Read more on the history of crochet here.
Crochet is making a massive come back as one of the most trendy and productive hobbies to have. Not to mention portable and inexpensive too! Google Searches has ranked it as the #3 ‘How-to’ search over the past few years.
Unlike most hobbies however, crochet (as well as other yarn crafts) has been intensively studied and recognised as having some amazing health benefits. Health professionals all over the world are conducting studies in all areas of well being. Interestingly, they are finding that the act of crocheting has far reaching physical and psychological health benefits.
They are summarised in to key categories below:
Crochet is good for anxiety & stress
Anxiety and stress trigger a flood of chemicals and hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, in to your blood stream. Your pulse and breathing rates increase so that your brain receives more oxygen. As a result, your body is prepared to respond to an intense or emergency situation. Your heart beats faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breathing quickens, and your senses become sharper.
All well and good if you’re about to do a bungee jump, run the race of your life, or give a public speech for the first time. But if you suffer from anxiety and stress on a day-to-day basis, your body is in a constant heightened state. You feel ‘het-up’ and highly charged most of the time. Not so good.
Enter crochet! The repetitive, rhythmic motion of crochet has a huge impact on these negative stress and hormone levels. Many of us use repetitive rhythmic movements like pacing, rocking, tapping, or smoking to calm ourselves when we are stressed or anxious. These ‘habits’ can be replaced by crochet.
Serotonin and dopamine are two very important chemicals for mental health and are known to be natural anti-depressants. The repetitive movement of crochet has shown to increase serotonin levels. Furthermore, matching your breathing to the repetitive action also helps to slow down your heartbeat and increase dopamine.
The release of these chemicals can also reduce blood levels of cortisol – the stress hormone we mentioned earlier. This in turn lowers your blood pressure. Once your body can prevent and manage stress levels, your immune system is strengthened and you have a better ability to cope with illness (physical or mental).
The repetitive counting of crochet has even been shown to serve people with anxiety associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), eating disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and insomnia. It’s even been called the ‘new yoga’ because of its relaxing meditative qualities.
Crochet is good for depression...
Prolonged anxiety and stress can lead to depression. Depression can be characterised by a feeling of sadness and hopelessness, feeling isolated and unable to relate to others, and not enjoying things that you normally would do. While it’s always important to discuss any issues you are facing with a professional, crochet is a great activity that can help overcome some of the feelings mentioned above.
It is somewhat comforting to know that depression relief is by far the most reported and studied benefit of crochet (and knitting). One such study was carried out at Cardiff University by Betsan Corkhill, and published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy. It reported that 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting or crocheting, with more than half (54%) reporting that they felt “very happy”.
The act of crochet encourages the body to be in a ‘flow-state’. This is similar to meditation and is defined as being completely immersed in your activity. If you are totally focused on what you are doing, on each stitch that you crochet, you create a distraction for the mind. This takes away the dread of the past or future and enables you to release physical tension and reduce feelings of anxiety.
In addition, on a psychological level, holding the hands together in front of the body creates a feeling of having a protected personal space. This is especially helpful for those in threatening or anxiety-producing situations.
...Self-esteem and loneliness
Crochet can be done alone or in a social group, where it is completely acceptable not to make eye-contact or engage in conversation if you so wish. Crochet groups can be safe places for people to gain confidence. Conversations can sometimes lead to other topics. Choosing whether or not to participate means that you are in control.
Simply by visualising, working on, and then creating a project can make you feel better about yourself. According to the American Counseling Association this feeling of self-worth has helped people with everything from coping with the fear of unemployment, to gaining the courage to leave an abusive relationship.
Crochet exercises your brain and is good for Dementia
Coordinated, precise movements using both hands, are hard work for the brain. New neuropathways can be created and strengthened by learning new skills and movements.
Neurological research (I know, there’s a lot of ‘neuro’ words in this bit! Basically it means – to do with nerves and the brain) tends to show that movement and skill in the fine motor muscles, especially in the hands, may stimulate cellular development in the brain. As a result, this strengthens the physical instrument of thinking.
Counting, multiplying, measuring and following a pattern are all maths skills. Although you use most of them subconsciously when crocheting, the affect on your brain is the same. No more trying to crack Sudoku – Yay!
Crochet is also good for your memory. Remembering what you are doing and where you are up to makes your brain actually rely on its memory. The more you use it, the stronger your memory becomes. Several studies have shown that crocheting and knitting can postpone age-related memory loss.
In a study conducted in 2011 by Dr Yonas Geda, Assistant Professor of Neurology, it is suggested that engaging in certain types of mentally stimulating acts is associated with decreased risk of cognitive impairment. The study demonstrated that crocheting, among other activities, resulted in an astounding 30 to 50 percent decrease in the odds of having mild cognitive impairment, a possible precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
Crochet is good for pain, circulation & arthritis
Not many people know that pain originates in the brain and not in the muscles or joints. Crochet and other yarn crafts, have been especially useful for those in long-term pain management.
Monica Baird, a pain specialist, explains that the action of crocheting or knitting actually changes brain chemistry. As mentioned earlier, the repetitive movements activate the same areas in the brain as meditation and yoga, which have been shown to help prevent pain and depression.
Crochet also helps with fine motor skills and keeping your fingers and hands feeling good as you age. The increased circulation to your fingers helps to keep them nimble, and keeps debilitating disorders such as arthritis at bay. Furthermore, the constant varying in focus keeps the eye muscles toned too.
All in all crochet is a wonderful hobby. The best in my opinion! The list could go on and on, and everyone I know who has ever tried crocheting always speaks of how great they feel for doing so.
I really hope the information above has given you an insight in to just how amazing this simple craft really is. If you don’t know how to crochet yet, have a look around my site for useful stuff to get you started. If you are already a keen crocheter like me, or simply know the basics, head over to our calendar page and see what workshops and crochet-alongs we have to offer. You can also take a look at our Pinterest boards for loads of ideas and fun stuff.
Now with all this talk of crochet, i’m off to #GetHooked!
Workshops this month
- 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, February 20, 2024 – Beginner's Level 2 Crochet - Cheshire
- 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, February 24, 2024 – Crochet Day Retreat Cheshire
- 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, February 28, 2024 – Tunisian Crochet Cheshire - Level 1
- 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, February 29, 2024 – Tunisian Crochet Online - Level 1
- 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, February 29, 2024 – Beginner's Crochet Online - Level 2
- 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm, March 1, 2024 – Beginner's Level 2 Crochet - Cheshire
- 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, March 2, 2024 – Beginner's Crochet Online - Level 1