Knitting For Mental Health; How Knitting Can Help With Anxiety

In the midst of a public conversation about mental health, the photo of Olympian Tom Daley with his needles confirms that knitting is neither exclusively female nor old-fashioned. Psychologists already consider it the meditation of the 21st century.

“The one thing that has kept me sane through this entire process is my love of knitting and crochet and all things sewing.” Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley has been sharing with the million followers of his profile @madewithlovebytomdaley his projects with the needles since he started knitting, at the beginning of the pandemic, but also something much more important: the revelation that knitting is a great anti-stress escape route.

The photo of a champion of this level weaving in the stands of Tokyo 2020 captured the attention of the general media, but the Briton is not the only one, far from it, to discover in recent times the benefits of counting stitches and laps. Of course, with his needles he broke several barriers: the first was gender, because although women are the majority in knitting , more and more men decide to try it. The second, from prism: knitting had gone from old-fashioned to cool hobby (thanks to the promotion of brands like We Are Knitters, with a modern image and a very millennial language) but now, in the midst of a public conversation about mental health , It is also known as the self-care routine of successful people.

Knitting is exactly the kind of task that can help boost brain power, because it’s challenging, complex, and takes practice. And best of all, you don’t have to become an expert to reap its rewards, because it’s a perfect meditation exercise. It is the constant repetition of working to improve, and not the pursuit of excellence , that has the greatest impact.

“They call it the yoga of the 21st century, a form of meditation because it is mechanical”, tells us Pepita Marín, CEO of We Are Knitters , a startupSpanish company that began selling wool ten years ago and today has a turnover of 15 million euros, and with whom Daley has collaborated on several occasions. “A lot of people do it after work, they do it to free their minds,” he adds. “In fact, the number one reason people buy from us is relaxation. It is well known that knitting is de-stressing, relaxing, and helps slow down the heartbeat. And that’s what people look for in the first place. On the other hand they also develop creativity, many people are discovering that they like to do things: that feeling of satisfaction that you have when you finish something that you have done with your own hands is unmatched”.

The pandemic has set an absolute record for them in sales: in a single day they managed to make 100,000 euros of sales in balls of wool (a milestone they achieved in March and which they repeated in September): “People were locked up at home, well with a bit of anxiety, boredom or the need to relax”, he tells us. The luck was that their brand was already 100% online, that they had a surplus from the previous season and that they have been able to connect with a young generation (their typical client is a woman between 25 and 35 years old).

Knitting as Salvation

“The idea of knitting, sewing, embroidering or making bobbin lace implies having to count and pay full attention to an activity is an act of meditation in itself,” says psychologist, speaker and writer Patricia Ramirez, known as Patri Psicologia ( with 415,000 followers on Instagram). “It forces you to focus all your attention on that task and thereby prevent the mind from thinking about catastrophic thoughts or anticipating situations that could go wrong,” she explains. In fact, meditation is precisely that, a help to be in the present, and with it, calm the mind.

“The benefits of meditation are many. First, when one has been meditating for three months, it has been scientifically proven that the brain undergoes structural changes, that is, there are internal changes that help us live more serenely. It also favors the activation of the amygdala, which is the organ with which emotions are managed, so if we regulate its activity, we will surely experience situations of fear or anxiety with less intensity”, adds this expert. And there is even more: “It favors sleep, self-esteem, cognitive functions (attention, concentration), the ability to enjoy the present moment, and helps manage uncomfortable emotions such as sadness, disappointment, frustration, anger or anxiety.”

In The Power of Knitting(The Power of Knitting, 2020), the Italian knitter, economist and author Loretta Napoleoni writes that knitting can be the salvation for many people in this increasingly fractured world, where anxiety and loneliness are difficult life companions. “Weaving has been an essential instrument for the survival of the species, a tool for women to influence society, as well as a relaxing activity to calm us down and a metaphor for life,” writes Napoleoni in the book’s introduction, in the which traces a historical journey on the impact of the art of needlework from ancient Egypt to the seamstress spies of World War II and up to the present day. Napoleoni, fond of knitting thanks to her grandmother.

The latest celebrity to publicize knitting is Daley, but there are more influential figures in this knitting business. Michelle Obama, for example, told last year on an American television program that she has also become a fan: “During confinement I have sewn a blanket, five scarves, three tank tops, a couple of hats for Barack and I have just finished my first pair of mittens for Malia… I am a knitter.” She said she, moreover, that she has registered with a pseudonym in a network of online knitters, although she did not reveal if it was Ravelry.

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