Everyone’s all about mindfulness as a panacea for all manner of mental health issues, and I can appreciate how living in the moment and reducing overthinking can help out a problem brain. After all, I’m a young person who has, for a long time, struggled with my mental health.
But sometimes mindfulness doesn't always work. So I started doing something different: knitting.
The wonderful thing about knitting is that it combines mindfulness with mindlessness perfectly. You have to concentrate, sure, but you can easily lose yourself in the regular movements and the rhythmic counting. It’s a calming type of self-hypnosis.
Here are some of the benefits of knitting as self-care.
1. You Learn A Skill.
While childhood was full of clay pots and finger painting, these types of creative pursuits are almost non-existent come “adulthood.” Unless you’re a skilled artist, practicing a craft for fun is almost seen as ridiculous and a waste of time, except when it comes to knitting. Because you can’t really be “bad” at knitting — you're either doing it, or you’re not.
2. You Can Visibly See Your Progress.
In a world of intangible concepts, seeing something you’re working on grow and improve is particularly satisfying. Every item you knit sets you up to be neater, faster and more ambitious with the next. You can literally, visually see improvement. And on top of that, knitting offers an achievable end goal. Knitting an item will reward you with said item. When you feel like a useless waste of the earth’s resources, that’s helpful.
3. You're Being Productive — Even If You Don't Feel Like It.
A pertinent symptom of my depression is the voice in my head repeating “I don’t want to do anything.” While this could be mistaken for the voice of laziness (which, believe me, is also loud and proud within my psyche), the voice isn’t just saying “I don’t want to do anything productive.” It literally does not want to do anything — eat, sleep, read, shower, watch TV, exist.
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But combine this sentiment with another unpleasant feeling — the panic of a life wasted — and you’ve got yourself into a real pickle. Here’s why knitting helps. It’s easy and not entirely unpleasurable to do, even in the midst of wishing-everything-would-go-away-itis. And in terms of frittering away what precious time we have on earth? Well, you may have re-watched a whole season of America’s Next Top Model while crying, but if you’ve also knitted half an inch of a pair of socks, then you’ve technically been productive, too.
4. Knitting Can Help You Feel Self-Sufficient.
When you knit, you work independently, producing something all your own. And there’s something satisfyingly about that. Do you want a fuzzy navy jumper with a baby pink collar? You can have it, designed exactly to your specifications. If something you want doesn’t exist, create it. You will feel creative and independent. It’s a knitting philosophy which should really be applied more often to the world.
5. Knitting Is A Great Prop.
For those whose mental health issues manifest in a fear of being around others, knitting is a brilliant crutch — an almost-literal “safety blanket.” Not only does it give you something to do with your hands that isn’t repeatedly rolling and smoking cigarettes (who, me?) but it can also help spark comfortable and natural conversations. In times when all your brain function is taken up with don’t-cry-don’t-panic, that’s valuable.
If you knit someone a gift, they’ll be your pal for life. And do you want to know a secret? Knitting isn’t actually that hard. In fact, I’d say it has one of the most efficient effort-to-compliment ratios out there. For times when your self-esteem is nonexistent and everything you do seems like trash, any compliment can be a savior. Let knitting help you.