Knitting might bring to mind some conventional images that may make you want to yawn – for example, your grandma. But don’t write it off so fast! This pastime has surprising benefits that might change your mind.

The Neural Connection

The human brain has about 80 billion neurons, which grow and strengthen by forming neural connections. These connections keep the brain healthy and active and are easier to accomplish than you’d think! By learning new skills, interacting with other people and staying physically active you can grow your neural connections and keep your brain strong. Another pastime that keeps your neural connections growing? You guested it, knitting!

Some groups have picked up on the fact that knitting helps your neural connections, like the Neural Knitworks group in Australia. This knitting group gets together to craft with yarn and knit their way to healthier brains, all while listening to presentations from experts on things like anxiety, addiction and mental health issues. Check out the Neural Knitworks Facebook page to see some of the crafts they’ve created and facts they’ve learned!

Improving Your Mood

In 2013, The Washington Post found that knitting is a proven mood-booster. Studies found that after asking 3,500 knitters how they felt after knitting, 80% said they felt happier. In fact, there is such a thing called textile therapy, which uses activities like sewing, knitting and weaving to help lift patients’ moods and bring them out of depressive states.

Dr. Ann Futterman-Collier, with the Well Being Lab at Northern Arizona University, conducted a study with 60 women in which she broke them up into groups who would be writing, meditating or knitting. Ultimately, the knitters ended up showing the best blood pressure and heartbeat results, and surveyed the happiest after the experiment.

“People who were given the task to make something actually had less of an inflammatory response in the face of a ‘stressor’,” Dr. Futterman Collier said.

Studies like this have determined that knitting is one of the top at-home relievers for anxiety and stress. With your brain and hands preoccupied, knitting can slow and soothe your bodily functions while distracting the mind.

The Power of Dopamines

You may have heard of a little thing called dopamines before. Essentially, this is the chemical emitted after sex, sleep, eating or exercise that boost our mood, making us instantly happier. Sound great, right?

While medical dopamine is prescribed for depression, participating in activities such as knitting can make your dopamine levels rise naturally. As one of the easiest and cheapest methods, knitting or working with textiles is a quick (and fun!) solution to a bad mood or even a depressive state. Focusing your energy on creating something not only keeps your brain busy, but gives you a product to be proud of when you’re finished.

So don’t judge knitting quite so quickly! This pastime has incredible medical benefits for your brain, mood and anxiety that could save you money and energy – plus, you get to make something neat for you or as a gift for your family and friends!

Last but not least, everyone can knit. Don’t second guess yourself. Purchase a how-to book , watch a YouTube tutorial, look for a knitting class at your local library or town rec center, or even ask a friend to teach you! There is no doubt that you’ll pick it up before you know it and knit your way to a happier life!