Because we could all use some extra techniques to relax right now.

By Emily VanSchmus
March 16, 2020
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If the last few weeks have left you feeling a bit unsettled, you’re not alone. As schools and businesses across the country close due to the new coronavirus, thousands of people find themselves practicing social distancing and spending more time at home. And while this practice is good news for our global community, being cooped up inside with nothing to do besides reading the news and disinfecting the house has my stress levels raised. So if you’ve been on the hunt for some good news, here it is: Research shows there’s an easy (and fun) way to naturally improve your mental health. Grab your knitting needles and dig out your yarn stash, because knitting, crocheting, and crafting have all been linked to lowering stress levels and increasing your body’s dopamine production.

Credit: Guido Mieth

How Does Crafting Reduce Stress

The British Journal of Occupational Therapy published a study about the correlation between knitting and wellbeing in adults. The study, which included data from more than 3,400 knitters across the world, found that there's “a significant relationship between knitting frequency and feeling calm and happy.” In fact, 81% of survey takers with depression reported feeling genuinely happy after knitting. The results also showed higher cognitive functioning in adults who had just spent time knitting. Plus, the hobby has also been linked to reducing arthritis and relieving chronic pain

It turns out the repetitive nature of knitting and crocheting is what helps your brain relax, while the creative high of actually making something with your hands signals your body to naturally release dopamine, the "feel-good chemical" our body produces to make us happy. An article from CNN also backs up these claims: Research shows that leisurely creative activities (like crafting and sewing) can reduce your chances of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30% to 50%. 

Keep in mind that while activities like crafting, knitting, and sewing have been shown to lower levels of stress, these creative outlets are by no means a cure-all for clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders. If you have persistent symptoms of anxiety and depression, seek help from a medical professional as well. 

How to Get Started

If you’ve never learned to knit before, it’s fairly easy to learn. And, you can buy all the materials you need online, or take advantage of Michaels' new free curbside pick-up option. Add needles (such as these 10-Inch Aluminum Knitting Needles, $3.99, Michaels and yarn (Heather Gray Yarn, $1.99) to your cart and work through our guide to knitting basics. Once you’ve mastered the basic stitch, work your way up to making a pair of mittens or even a knitted dog toy. If knitting with needles isn’t your thing, try arm knitting a chunky blanket

Last year I discovered Jonah Larson, a 12-year-old crochet prodigy whose Instagram account, @jonahhands, has gone viral. Jonah inspired me to learn the basic crochet stitches and start some new crochet projects, like the daily temperature blanket project. To make the blanket, you knit or crochet a few rows each day in a color that corresponds to the weather outside (and now is the perfect time to stay home and catch up on the last few months if you’re just starting a blanket for this year). Add hooks (such as 4-Piece Crochet Hook Set, $9.99) and a few skeins of yarn (such as this Cotton Candy Multi-Color Yarn, $5.98) to your cart, schedule your curbside pick-up, and you’ll be able to start crocheting a blanket the same day without ever going inside the store.

Credit: Brie Passano

If you're not a sewer already, our ultimate sewing guide can help you get started on any of our 40+ easy sewing projects anyone can make. Sew your own DIY canvas tote bag or make a stash of reusable sandwich wraps for when you need to start packing lunches again. Plus, Rifle Paper Co. just dropped gorgeous new fabrics you can order online to inspire your creative juices.


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