Knitting and anxiety

7  Reasons Why Knitting and Crochet Help with Anxiety

Hand movements

Bilateral, coordinated, precise hand movements are hard work for the brain, and crossing over midline requires even more brain work. As a result, we are less able to pay attention to other issues and concerns. In other words, knitting “distracts” the brain.

Repetitive movement

Many of us use repetitive, rhythmic  movement like pacing, rocking, tapping, picking, hair pulling, smoking, drinking, or eating, to calm ourselves when we are stressed or traumatized.  There are many, many stories of people who have replaced an anxiety crutch with knitting or crochet.  Knitters with PTSD report they have fewer flashbacks and other symptoms.

Safety “bubble”

Holding the hands together in front of the body creates the sensation of having a protective “bubble” of personal space and comfort, and is especially helpful in threatening or anxiety producing situations.

Eye contact is optional

It’s totally acceptable in knitting groups to make eye contact only when you choose to.  Same thing with conversation, although greeting others upon arrival, and saying goodbye when you leave, is recommended.  Knitting groups are safe places where conversations about knitting often lead to other topics; and choosing whether or not to participate means that you are in control.


Knitting and crochet can go almost anywhere with you!  Just tuck it into a pocket, purse, or tote, and a solution is always nearby for when symptoms of anxiety and panic arise.  An easy project is best for places with distractions;  a new pattern or technique is best for distracting the mind and growing new brain pathways.

Sensory– there are so many beautiful colors, an array of textures, and soft, bristly, smooth, or bumpy fibers to choose from!  They provide pleasing visual, tactile, and perceptual feedback to our bodies and brains.

Hormone levels

More serotonin is released with repetitive movement, which improves mood and sense of calmness. After you’ve learned knitting or crochet, it can also reduce blood levels of cortisol-the stress hormone.


New neuro pathways can be created and strengthened by learning new skills and movements.

As they become stronger with use, we “change our minds” to become quieter and more relaxed.

“ the feeling experienced as your mind flows into the movement of knitting can teach you what it feels like to be relaxed, and you can learn to recall this feeling even when you don’t have knitting in hand.” (a knitter)


I’m so excited to teach others how to knit or crochet, and how to use it as a tool to quiet the mind, mend the brain, and soothe the soul!

1 thought on “Knitting and anxiety”

  1. Betty,
    I heard the interview you had with Zinta on WMUK this morning. I am so intrigued by this idea of knitting as a way of reducing stress and increasing a sense of community. I totally related to your story as I am a cross-stitcher and when I don’t get to stitch much I get very tense. I always call stitching my “crack cocaine.” As an educator, I am concerned with the increasing amount of kids dealing with stress and anxiety. If we could get kids doing more hand crafts and reduced kids’ stress, wouldn’t that be something! I have already talked with the children’s director at my church. I would love to do summer clubs for kids where we might meet 6 times to learn a hand craft. I would teach cross-stitching the first year and find someone to teach knitting and crocheting in following years. I would love to meet for coffee sometime to chat with you about this and to possibly get more research, book titles, etc. to read more about this.
    Hope to hear from you soon!

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