Stress Awareness Month: Mindfulness and Knitting with Danny Hill
3 min read time
Through various scientific studies it has been proven that knitting is good for your health. Its many therapeutic applications range from eating disorders to pain management, dementia and depression. It's even utilised within the NHS to complement medical treatments in the self-management of long-term health conditions.
With April being Stress Awareness Month, we’ve decided to focus on the stress-relieving benefits of knitting, and how it can facilitate mindfulness. We’ve turned to mindfulness expert and teacher Danny Hill, a.k.a. the Monk on a Motorbike, to explore how combining mindfulness with knitting can increase the health benefits of both practices.
"The gentle art of knitting has long been known for its therapeutic fringe benefits as a form of meditation. Mindfulness, a meditation practice in its own right, has, in recent years, become the go-to technique for generating calm in these hectic times. So imagine the potential if you combined these two."
But, you might ask, if they are known as stand-alone meditation practices, then why bother to do both? You’re already knitting, and it makes you happy; why mix it up with mindfulness? Because they're complementary, whilst working in different ways with different results. In fact, they work synergistically together and are much more potent when combined. And here’s why.
Meditation is broadly divided into two types: single, pointed concentration meditation, and mindfulness (or, broad-awareness meditation). The two overlap a lot, can be easily practised together, and often are.
In the first type, we take an object to focus on; generally this is the breath, or it can be an image, sound, or mantra. We focus on this to the exclusion of all else. This stops the mind wandering off and dwelling on negative thoughts or obsessing about pleasant ones. It also engages the part of the central nervous system which helps us to relax and generates chemicals in the brain which further encourage states of calm.
With mindfulness we also focus on the main object, e.g. the breath, but we also keep our awareness open and broad. We deliberately try to notice anything else that comes more strongly into our sensory field including thoughts and emotions, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and physical touch.
Knitting would be classed as a concentration practice. The rhythmic, repetitive movements calm the mind and induce greater focus in much the same way as repeating a mantra, or following the in and out breath.
By simply opening our awareness outwards and deliberately starting to notice our sensory experiences while knitting, we can transform this craft into a mindfulness practice. We might become aware of the feel of the yarn in our fingers or the sound of the needles clicking together, and if the mind wanders we simply acknowledge this without any self-criticism and come back to the movements of the needles or the rhythm of the breath.
By doing this, our experience of knitting becomes much richer: we are seeing the colours, hearing the sounds, and feeling the textures of our present-moment experience. By gently acknowledging our thoughts and letting them go without comment, we stop ourselves from getting involved in any negative emotions that might arise. We just enjoy our knitting as fully as possible.
Research shows this combination of focusing the mind and allowing our experiences and emotions to 'be', without any judgement, can help with managing stress and anxiety, depression, anger, and pain management.
When we are able to maintain greater levels of calm in our life we become more creative and productive. We are easier to be around so we enjoy better relationships at home and in the workplace. This in turn makes us happier and generates a virtuous circle of self generating happiness!
Once we are on board with mindfulness we have a technique that we can use at anytime in our lives, not just when we are knitting. This is a deeply transformative practice that can bring about very positive changes with just a little consistent effort.
Knitting alone is very calming and soothing, but when we add in the mindfulness we start to change our mindset and our whole lives get better! The more we practise these techniques the more the brain and body generate positive chemical cycles that reinforce these wholesome mental states.
And with mindful knitting there’s the additional benefit of it resulting in beautiful woollen products - another boost to self-esteem!
About Danny Hill:
Practising since 1995, Daniel is a meditation teacher and mindfulness coach who has been helping people around the planet make sense of meditation.
A former Buddhist monk, he has spent long periods on silent, intensive meditation retreats in Asia and the UK. He says: 'Mindfulness is a really easy practice. Anyone can do it. I've found it to be deeply transformative in my own life and the lives of many others.'
Recently returned from teaching at Vagabond Temple, a yoga and meditation retreat centre in Cambodia, Daniel lives and works in London. Motorbikes are his preferred more of transport; he is known to friends and students as the 'Monk on a Motorbike'.
For further details and enquiries contact Danny at email@example.com or visit the Facebook page Mindful2gether