We don't need to justify pastimes we pick up for fun, but sometimes it helps to have an excuse for engaging in them, just in case! So when I was thinking of getting back into my knitting hobby, my sister loyally supported the idea by passing along information about the many health benefits associated with it.
It is amazing how much physical and psychological good can come from picking up a pair of knitting needles and some yarn. The repetitive motion of the activity induces a relaxed state similar to that achieved through meditation or yoga. The production of useful, tangible products boosts self esteem, keeps hands flexible as well as busy, the latter useful when trying to control one's weight or quit a smoking habit. Studying difficult patterns keeps the mind active as we age and can help improve math skills in the young. Knitting together in groups enhances social skills. Focusing the mind on something outside the body is even useful in controlling chronic pain.
Perhaps what interested me the most was learning that (at least when past the initial learning curve or a particularly challenging part of a pattern) knitting can slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure. The latter is an issue for me; I love the thought of my doctor prescribing a daily knitting break as well as a pill to keep mine under control!
My doctor appointments usually begin with an initial blood pressure reading...followed by several more in succession, as the nurses are never satisfied with the results the machine gives them. They hope for a more positive number combination to put in my record before the doctor enters the room. But he knows that my readings are likely elevated by the thought of going to the doctor's office in the first place and the rush to get there; he routinely waits till the end of our time together to take it one more time and hope for a more favorable reading once I've relaxed and sat for a bit.
We reached such a moment in my appointment last week, and as he wrapped the blood pressure cuff around my upper arm, he said, “Here we go. Think good thoughts...!” And so I did. I pictured my current knitting project, a thought which never fails to delight. A minute or so later he pulled the stethoscope out of his ears, unwrapped the cuff with a huge smile and declared, “120!”...an impossibly low systolic reading for me!
I didn't know till just now that April happens to be National Stress Awareness Month, and people everywhere are invited to join the crafters' campaign to Stitch Away Stress! Excuse me now while I step away and take my blood pressure “medicine” for the day...!
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.
(Philippians 4: 8 NKJV)