ó As autumnal breezes rustle browning trees, a comfy couch
by the hearth soon could become your regular after-work
destination. But before you plop down, experts recommend you
find a hand-based craft such as knitting or crocheting to keep
spirits high during chilly times.
needles over Netflix can do wonders to promote cognitive
function as well as hand health, write Carrie and Alton
Barron, M.D.s, in their 2012 book "The Creativity Cure:
Building Happiness With Your Own Two Hands."
Barron, a psychiatrist with the Columbia College of Physicians
and Surgeons and a knitter, lauds handiwork as a tool for
alleviating anxiety and depression. Her husband, Alton Barron,
orthopedic surgeon and president of the New York Society for
Surgery of the Hand, says knitting can prevent arthritis and
doctor duo have traveled the country promoting the benefits of
knitting, and will appear In October in Chicago at Vogue
Knitting Live!, one of the biggest knitting conferences. The
age-old craft has made a comeback in recent years, with 38
million people knitting and crocheting nationwide, according
to the Craft Yarn Council.
your hands meaningfully triggers healthy engagement and
activity in about 60 percent of your brain, said Alton Barron.
The rhythmic, mathematical nature of knitting and crocheting
keep the mind absorbed in a healthy way, providing an escape
from stressful thoughts but allowing for internal reflection,
said Carrie Barron.
television can engage people from the outside, the mind
requires stimulation from within in order to "free
associate" or think imaginatively, she said. The
psychiatrist suspects the return to knitting is a response to
the rise in technology, much like the arts and craft movement
followed the industrial revolution.
something so gratifying about taking strings and pieces and
making them whole," she said. "Thereís something
primitive and innate about that. The fragments of the mind
also come together in that process. Itís a parallel process
between the mind and the hands."
study from the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical
Neurosciences showed that doing crafts such as patch-working
or knitting during middle age, combined with watching less
television, decreased the odds of later cognitive impairment
and memory loss by 30 to 50 percent, and promoted the
development of neural pathways.
can also improve mood, according to a 2013 survey of 3,500
knitters published in the British Journal of Occupational
Therapy. When asked to describe their mood before knitting, 34
percent reported feeling "happy" and 23 percent
reported being "a little sad" to "very
sad." When asked to report their mood post-knitting, less
than 1 percent remained sad and 81 percent described
themselves as "a little happy" to "very
Wallis, a mother of three from Fair Oaks, Calif., said
knitting has been a crucial outlet for her since she was
diagnosed with depression last year. Wallis, 33, said she
taught herself to knit using web videos, and now reaches for
the needles anytime she feels sad or overwhelmed.
only takes me 10 or 15 minutes to feel the effects," she
said. "Itís the rhythm and focusing all of my attention
instead of feeling like Iím being pulled in many directions.
Once you start doing it, itís so rhythmic that it becomes a
meditative thing. It really makes my brain calm down."
who study therapeutic knitting would tie Wallisí experience
to the "relaxation response" theory conceived by Dr.
Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School in the 1960s. His
work, later continued by other scientists, showed that
meditative practices can lower heart rates and blood pressure
and can alleviate the symptoms associated with hypertension,
insomnia, depression and anxiety.
someone a sweater, in addition to saving you from holiday
shopping, can also be a great workout for the fingers, hands
and forearms, said Alton Barron. Moving the joints of the
fingers forces fluid to move in and out of the surrounding,
sponge-like cartilage, keeping the joints well-hydrated and
minimizing the risk of arthritis, he said.
you let a joint sit, not only will it get stiff, but the
actual cartilage will lose its structural integrity and break
down," he said. "Most of us grow up thinking the
more you use something the more it wears out, but thatís not
the case with cartilage."
such as knitting requires a forceful but not-too-strenuous use
of the fingers while also incorporating the wrists and
forearms for unraveling yarn and lifting the garment, said
Barron. Mechanically speaking, itís better than typing,
which he said does not condition the hands enough to prevent
those already suffering from arthritis, Barron recommends
soaking hands in warm water to loosen the joints before use,
and choosing thicker needles, which are easier to hold.
midtown Sacramento yarn shop Rumpelstiltskin, owner Linda
Urquhart sells bamboo and birch needles to beginners and
mavens alike. Knitting and crocheting classes offer a social
setting for enthusiasts, as heaping piles of colorful yarn
draw the gaze of curious passers-by.
isnít something you have to have, itís something you
want," Urquhart said. "I have so many customers that
have cancer or friends with cancer. If theyíre getting an
infusion, knitting is a stress relief. It just makes you feel