Knitting and other handcrafts are more popular than ever. And it’s thanks in no part to the health benefits you derive from it. The Craft Yarn Council reports that a third of women 25 to 35 now knit or crochet. And now men are starting to join in!
Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind-body medicine and author of The Relaxation Response, says that the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state similar to that associated with meditation and yoga. Once you get beyond the initial learning curve, knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
But unlike meditation, craft activities result in tangible and often useful products that can enhance self-esteem. A good idea is to take pictures of your end products on your phone – look at them to boost your spirits.
Another benefit is that when you’re knitting or doing other hand work, you can’t mindlessly eat – this cuts down on snacking. And if you’re knitting, you can’t smoke! Another health benefit.
I recently knitted a pair of fingerless mitts to keep my hands warm this winter. It felt really good to do something productive in the evening rather than just watch TV!
Many years ago I dislocated my shoulder. I have never experienced pain like that! Think of an ice pick going through your shoulder and then twisting. And then grinding. And then pulling it out a little at a time. And then someone is bashing your shoulder over and over again. That’s the kind of pain. So severe I passed out from it. And then a few days later when I thought it was better, I dislocated it again in my sleep. The doctor said to cut out the aerobics for a while and do other strengthening exercises.
Over time the shoulder got stronger, and I could forget about the dislocations. I lift weights – probably baby weights to many people’s way of thinking, but they’re good for me.
And then a few days ago my shoulder started hurting again. I didn’t think anything of it, but it went on for several days. My mind started to worry at it – what if my shoulder dislocates again. Should I stop working out? Should I stop using weights?
But my brain kicked in and said, “Go easy. It’s not that kind of pain. Yes, it hurts, but the shoulder is not going to dislocate!” And my intelligent brain was right, rather than my panicked brain. I went a little easier, assessed what was going on and moved on. And now my shoulder is fine.
So, the take-away here is to know your body. Know the different kinds of pain that you experience. If something is new and scary, get it seen to. Get to know what muscle soreness is like. You’ll recognize it and move on.
Ordinarily, I advocate following an exercise program for the duration. If it’s a 21 Day program, do it for those 21 days, no excuses! 30 days – ditto! But some days you’re angry at the world and need an outlet before you punch your kids, spouse, dog, mailman… A good kickboxing workout is perfect for those days. If you’re feeling lethargic and almost under the weather, then maybe a yoga practice or Pilates session is the best bet. One day a while ago I felt what seemed like a cold coming on and I did an intense yoga practice. I forgot about how my nose and throat felt and focused on my brain! I felt totally fine at the end of the final pose, Shavasana. Some days I feel flighty and want a super-intense workout to bring me down to earth.
Today I was in a bad mood, so I popped in one of my favorites, Turbo Jam’s Kickin’ Core. There was kicking, punching, work on the stability ball – it had everything I needed! Even some Capoeira for an intense push. All that in 45 minutes! Needless to say, my mood turned around and I was able to face the rest of the day with equanimity. After my shower…
We’re surrounded by our electronics and our devices. There is no escaping the fact that to live successfully in 2016, we need to be plugged into the world around us. It’s how we stay in touch with our friends, how we keep tabs on our kids, know if our flight is on time, how late the bus is going to be, how we get our news.
But once in a while we just need to unplug. Stop the noise. Get some peace back into our lives. Turn off the computer. Turn the phone off. Turn the TV off.
And then we can go about regaining our peace and sanity. Just sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed. Let the thoughts zoom through your mind. Acknowledge them but don’t take any action at all. Then open your eyes and read a book for 15 minutes. Cook your favorite meal without the TV blaring. Play with the dog for a while, or go for a walk with him. Or by yourself. Look at the trees, at the bushes, at the houses. Or just think about the things and people that make you happy.
It’s easy to become immersed in our technological world, but once in a while it’s important to live in our own head and figure out who we are inside.