Monday, May 16, 2016

Knitting Up a Wounded Heart ...

           Properly practiced, knitting soothes the 
            troubled spirit,
            and it doesn't hurt the untroubled
           spirit either!

         Elizabeth Zimmermann

Hi Everyone!

Knitting may seem a strange topic for this time of year but I'm planning to take yarn and needles to the cottage to teach a friend how to knit this summer so it's on my mind this week.

My Mom taught me to spool knit when I was six and and then to do "real knitting" when I was eight. Some fifty years later, my two younger sisters and I sat in a row in the hallway outside a busy intensive care unit knitting steadily as our Mom lay dying within. We hadn't consulted each other about bringing our knitting to our hallway vigil but, on reflection, there couldn't have been a better way of dealing with our stress or holding space for our mother's end-of-life.

As much by example as anything, Mom taught us to use knitting as a means of mending wounded hearts and as a stress reliever (- though she would never have used those actual words because  she belonged to a generation that didn't believe much in taking time to heal wounds or deal with stress. Life was hard and you just got on with it). If you had been mindful, though, you would have noticed that her knitting came out whenever things were tough at work, when she was worried about one of us kids, when financial resources were scarce or when my dad was having a mental health crisis or drinking too much. 

These days, we know that the knitting Mom used intuitively to deal with stress is showing up positively in the research literature. Knitting has a positive impact on health and wellness and may be part of the solution in reducing compassion fatigue. Studies suggest that knitting decreases stress, creates new neural pathways and can have an antidepressant effect. It can also help alleviate ruminating, delay memory loss and may help slow the onset of Alzheimer Disease. Learning to knit and seeing a finished product can build self esteem. And knitting also offers opportunities for creativity and calms and soothes through repetitive motion and the tactile softness and colour of the yarns.

A small February 2016 study of The Impact of a Knitting Intervention on Compassion Fatigue in Oncology Nurses in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing noted that a knitting intervention, (learning to knit through the non-profit, Project Knitwell, and knitting squares with colleagues during break times), can provide the above positive effects as well as offering opportunities to debrief informally. Using the Pro-QOL before and after a knitting intervention showed a significantly positive change in burnout scores and trends toward significance with the secondary traumatic stress and compassion satisfaction scores. These improved scores applied particularly to younger nurses. It would be interesting to see the results with a larger cohort.

Project Knitwell has published a lovely little booklet called, The Comfort of Knitting: A How to Knit Guide for Caregivers and Families that shares research on knitting and health, teaches you knitting basics and offers 7 easy project patterns. They also offer a list of books on knitting and wellness including:

1.  Knit for Health and Wellness: How to Knit a Flexible Mind and More by Betsan Corkhill (Flatbear Publishing, 2014)
 2.  Love in Every Stitch: Stories of Knitting and Healing  by Lee Gant  (Viva Editions, 2015)
 3.  Knit Red: Stitching for Women's Heart Health by Laura Zander  (Sixth & Spring Books, 2012)
 4.  Knitting Yarns: Writers On Knitting  by Ann Hood  (Norton, 2014)
 5.  Knitting Heaven and Earth: Healing the Heart with Craft by Susan Gordon Lydon  (Potter Craft, 2008)
 6.  The Knitting Way: A Guide to Spiritual Self Discovery by Linda T Skolnik and Janice MacDaniels  (Skylight Paths, 2005)
7.  Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the Craft by Tara Jan Manning  (Tuttle, 2004)
 8.  Zen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring the Links Between, Knitting, Spirituality and Creativity by Bernadette Murphy  (Adams Media, 2002)
9.  Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet by Kathryn Vercillo  (Self-published, 2012)
10. The Creativity Cure: How to Build Happiness with Your Own Two Hands by Carrie and Alton Barron   (Scribner, 2012)

Happy stitching, everyone!!

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