I got another one of those knitting fits that strike me now and then. In the last few years I noticed that I experienced the knitting itch not only when I had pleanty of free time but surprisingly also when I felt I had no free time at all. For example this last one came when the boarder line between work and free time was getting so blurred that I was practically working nonstop. At some point when I was in the city area running some errands my feet brought me into a knitting supply store. I had no plans for and did not think I had the time to knit anything but as I entered the store and my eyes took in the colors and textures of yarn from different corners of the world I knew this was what I had to do and that it was about something more than an enjoyable way of spending time.
And for the last few evenings knitting I did for at least 20 minutes no matter how busy I thought I was. I would remind myself that the to-do list can never really be exhausted, then I would shut down the laptop, pick up the started knitting project and let my hands do the work, my mind go blank. This was a survival mechanism at work, it appears.
Neuroscientist Kelly Lambert offers a well-grounded in scientific research explanation to why crafts are important for our mental health in her book “Lifting Depression: A Neuroscientist’s Hands-On Approach to Activating Your Brain’s Healing Power”. (An interview with her can be heard on “To the best of our knowledge” in the 2008 December show “Re-considering crafts” and devoted to this particular issue).
Kelly Lambert’s conclusions draw on the findings in the fields of anthropology, neuroscience and psychology. Her theory is that physical effort directed toward producing something with our hands and seeing the end result “activates particular regions of the brain and builds resilience against the emotional emptiness and negative thinking associated with depression”.
In other words, using both hands on projects like knitting or pottery is as good to the body as taking anti-depressants! Intuitively I found the way to retain or regain mental balance by resorting to knitting as a natural anti-depressant.
From the Product description on the Amazon: “Whereas most therapies emphasize the importance of mental activity, Lambert reminds us of the importance of physical activity in establishing control in a fast-paced culture that is focused more on the prospect of immediate gratification than savoring the fruits of our labor.”
It took me a couple of hours to knit this winter hat by one of the Swedish designers. My knitting style is loose and the final product always looks more “relaxed” than the one featured on the picture of the project description but what do I care? I have developed my own style even in knitting, I now have a trendy winter hat, my head is well-protected against the cold Swedish winter and I feel great 🙂
I believe that it is most of the time in our power and that it is our responsability to learn to recognise the signs of mental imbalance and signals of depression by observing our reactions to the daily situations (by keeping in touch with the body) and taking both preventive and restorative measures before turning for quick fixes. “Happiness is an inside job” becomes more than a catchy phrase. We’ve got to figure out what drives us and makes us feel better. Nobody else will. (With this in mind I make the mental note of keeping the promise to myself to sleep at least 6 hours every night.)
I now consider taking a course in welding but that has to wait till summer. 🙂