This is a guest post by Kathryn Vercillo, the blogger behind Crochet Concupiscence. She has just released a new book, Crochet Saved My Life, about the mental and physical health benefits of the craft.
Imagine if you went to your doctor with an ailment and she took out her prescription pad and wrote you an order for one G-sized crochet hook, an indulgent skein of baby alpaca yarn and an hour of downtime. In these days of pharmaceutical company reps and health insurance mandates it’s probably not going to happen but the truth of the matter is that crochet might be just as healing for many people as popping a pill, going to a fifty minute therapy session or visiting the holistic healer for alternative medications. Crochet offers chemical, physical and emotional benefits that can help heal conditions as diverse as fibromyalgia and schizophrenia.
Crochet is a repetitive craft. Although you can manipulate it in various ways with many different stitch types and techniques, crocheters typically use the same few common stitches in patterns that tend to have a long pattern repeat. This repetition is a good thing. It lulls the mind and body into a relaxed state which can lower blood pressure, reducing stress-related disease and improving general wellbeing for people with any health condition.
The repetition of the craft also has another huge benefit, which is that it likely helps to release serotonin. This important chemical in the body is a natural anti-depressant. It promotes feelings of wellbeing for people with clinical depression including post-partum depression as well as people who experience depression as part of another health problem such as a chronic illness. Serotonin also acts as a natural painkiller and therefore is beneficial for people who need non-narcotic pain relief, including women who are pregnant and people with substance addiction problems.
Crochet, as a craft that requires fine motor coordination in the hands, can also be a terrific occupational therapy tool. It can be used to help rebuild those motor skills after a loss due to stroke, for example. And the craft is used as an OT tool in another way as well; it can provide a talking point for group therapy sessions that helps break down barriers between OT group members and facilitate growth in the sessions.
All of this sounds nice in theory, but is it really true? I can say for certain that it is because I personally used crochet to heal through a lifelong battle with depression. It worked for me (when combined with a complete treatment plan) when nothing else ever had; it’s a story that I share in my new book about the mental and physical health benefits of crochet. Researching this book allowed me to connect with women who also shared that they had healed thanks to crochet – from conditions including anxiety and autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenic hallucinations, obsessive compulsive disorder, restless leg syndrome and Chronic Lyme Disease. There’s evidence to suggest that crochet also helps people who are coping with age-related memory loss, addiction issues, and arthritis. Crochet – it’s just what the doctor ordered!
How have you used crochet or another craft to heal from an illness?