Knitting: Depression Help at My Fingertips

March 27th, 2012 by Dionna | 32 Comments
Posted in Adults, Carnival and Special Series, Eclectic Learning, natural parenting, Strive for Balance

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Welcome to the March Mindful Mama Carnival: Mindful Mama Challenge

This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Carnival hosted by Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ. This month our participants have challenges they’ve set for themselves toward becoming more mindful. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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knit heart

After Ailia was born, I rode those birth hormones for days. Weeks! I felt so cool and in control, I never for a moment considered myself at risk of developing postpartum depression (even though I clearly experienced it after Kieran’s birth).

But sure enough, a little over two months later, I started exhibiting my personal signs of depression – I stopped menu planning or cooking, resorting instead to fast food that made me feel gross. I started having a glass or two of wine after putting Kieran to bed. I stopped planning educational activities. I stopped writing. I felt a complete lack of motivation to do anything productive, including cleaning.

It was on a week where we were eating out for the third time when it finally hit me – I was depressed. And so I started looking within to figure out what factors (besides the obvious hormonal ones) contributed to my depression. One of my triggers for depression is spending too much time working on the computer, and not enough time interacting with family or exercising my creativity in other ways. Fortuitously, a friend was offering free knitting classes. I decided to take her up on them, just for a change of pace.

knitting hands

These knitting classes (well, in addition to my placenta pills) have been the key to lifting me out of my depression. They have fulfilled just about every need I had: they’ve given me regular weekly time with friends, out of the house; they’ve given me something new to learn, exercising my brain in different directions; they’ve given me a creative outlet that I can use to fill time that would have been spent in front of my computer.

And knitting itself is similar to meditation.

  • As with many forms of meditation, you move your hands (and the knitting needles) using calm, controlled motions.
  • Knitting in a quiet space can be an ideal way to engage in quiet contemplation and reflection.
  • Many practitioners of meditation use prayer beads or similar objects in an automatic manner. The movement of one’s knitting needles also becomes automatic, with both the motion and the small sounds of the needles being a pleasant accompaniment to an introspective state.
  • Meditation is often used to aid in stress reduction. So, too, can one use knitting.
  • Practitioners of meditation often desire to get beyond the “thinking” mind. Knitters also learn to practice their art reflexively – without consciously thinking about the movements their hands and fingers are making.

My first real finished project - a dress for Ailia!

I think it took this second pregnancy and birth for me to grasp the mindful benefits of knitting. I have actually tried to knit two times before in my life. The first time, Tom and I taught ourselves to knit one week while we were looking for adventure in New Mexico. That didn’t last.

The second time was soon after Kieran was born. I actually finished two small projects (a set of blocks and a scarf), but I never enjoyed it – I was too intent on the product to enjoy the process.

But just as I learned to sit back and trust my body in preparation for Ailia’s birth, so too am I learning to breathe and revel in the complex monotony of the pattern I am creating with my yarn. I am giving myself over to the stitches, giving myself permission to set aside work and worry in favor of weaving.1

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Mindful Mama Carnival -- Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ Visit The Mindful Mama Homepage to find out how you can participate in the next Mindful Mama Carnival!

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Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  1. As one knitter (and practitioner of meditation) wrote, you can’t worry and knit at the same time!

32 Responses to:
"Knitting: Depression Help at My Fingertips"

  1. Rachael   RachaelNevins

    My mother was a fiber artist (first embroidery, then knitting, and then weaving), whereas I meditate. Thank you for drawing a connection between our two practices!

    And I’m glad that you’re finding relief — and healing — through such an ordinary, do-able practice. Blessings to you! xox

  2. Amy   presenceparents

    Dionna, this is lovely and so is the dress you’ve knitted for Ailia!!!

    When I saw the title I immediately thought of my Grandma Ruth, who has now passed. She knitted endlessly, peacefully, and one time sent me an article about research indicating the similarities between meditation and knitting. I am so grateful you are sharing and experiencing the benefits. :) Much love to you and yours…

  3. MrsWJAA

    That is an absolutely beautiful dress:) I love it. I’ve never been very good at knitting, but I love to crochet. I agree that when you get into your groove it can be very relaxing and free your mind to wander.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I’d love to learn how to crochet too – I’ve seen several patterns that call for crochet to do part of the design!

  4. I love knitting, and it really can help. By the way, that dress is cute!

  5. This was very interesting for me–I was an avid knitter after the births of my first 2 daughters and when I look back at that period (especially after the first birth), I can see that I was definitely depressed. I used knitting as a bad, bad habit–one that kept me away from other people and from interacting with others in a meaningful way. Now, whenever I look at knitting, I feel DOWN, because I associate it with a dark period in my life.

    I hope to someday feel excited to pick up my knitting needles again, because I still think it is a wonderful activity, just not as an escape from life the way I was doing it.

    Enjoy!

  6. Brittany@Mama's Felt Cafe   mamasfeltcafe

    I enjoyed this honest post. I started teaching myself to hand sew for very similar reasons. I needed something else to do other than load the dishwasher for the millionth time and a way to focus my creative energies. Now the pendulum has swung too far the other way and I’m engrossed in a busy sewing business I’m not sure how to take a break from. . .

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Ohhhh – hand sewing! I never thought about that! But yes, I can see how that would be a problem for you now ;)

  7. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    I’m so glad knitting has been helping you so much! Thanks for sharing such a personal and honest story. I have always been interested in sewing of some sort, but I’ve never had the patience to learn. I also picture myself just as you described yourself a few years ago – too intent on the product to enjoy the process. This really makes me want to give it a shot at some point.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I also tried learning how to sew shortly after Kieran was born. I sew enough to wish I could sew more ;) I took up knitting, though, b/c it is portable – unfortunately sewing is not!

  8. Such a great post, I’m glad you found the healing you did through knitting. When i was in the middle of two house moves in as many months last autumn, and building our own home…I was in overwhelm…and grief stricken at leaving a home where a family tragedy had happened. Knitting saved me, really…just a few rows between the minutes of my crazy life, and a couple of warm mittens for my daughter..it soothed and grounded me like nothing else could..I realy empathise with what you’ve written..

  9. Ruth

    I believe that Grandma Dion has inspired you, since you are living in her home…she didn’t knit but you know she DID Crochet…and crochet and crochet!!! I am so pleased that you are learning this wonderful art form and I just adore the things you are making of our little Miss Ailia!!!

  10. I honour your courage discussing your depression so openly, and am delighted for you that you have found gentle ways of managing it.

  11. Claire   lactatinggirl

    I love knitting. I, too, tried to take it up multiple times before it stuck. I really started knitting a lot during this last pregnancy and I’ve loved it. It gives me something productive to do while still sitting and nursing. It gives me something that even if I just do it for 5 minutes, I see progress. I feel so accomplished when I learn a new stitch or technique. I’m sure it’s helped my ppd too, now that I think about it.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I wish I would have taken up knitting when I was pregnant! I could have knitted such sweet newborn things!!

  12. Kelly   BecomingCrunchy

    Have to say first how much I absolutely love that dress – it is gorgeous! :)

    I’ve always admired the idea of knitting as something so meditative and calming (though for me I’m guessing it wouldn’t be as I would just become frustrated with my lack of ability!). I can accept that this is not my area of creativity, but love the idea of finding that mindfulness in a task all the same. Thank you for the beautiful inspiration :)

  13. I taught myself to knit more than a decade ago. I enjoyed it and enjoyed the final products I made, but then life and such got busy and I stopped doing it. At the time I would never have considered the act of knitting as mediative, but now, if I ever have time to pick it up again, I could see myself looking for a quiet and meditative practice in the act.

    Thank you for sharing so openly about PPD. I was able to avoid much of it after my most recent birth, but there were certainly triggers that brought it on for (thankfully) short periods of time.

  14. Destany   Destany Fenton

    I have been trying to figure out why it’s so difficult for me to STOP knitting. I keep saying that I’m going to, but I can’t seem to set down my needles. Normally, I pick up a new hobby, work at it for a couple of weeks until I feel like I’ve mastered it, then move on. But knitting keeps compelling me to make another thing, and another, and another. Even the prospect of returning to painting – something I’ve been itching to do for a while now, cannot lull me away. I think your post just explained it.
    I’m glad you’ve found some peacefulness, and I agree, your daughters dress is beautiful!

  15. teresa   momgrooves

    How wise you are (either consciously or just intuitively) to take that knitting class.
    This is a really interesting concept to me. I know that I need to find a way to shut down the amped up “go, go, go; must produce in every moment…” and find some peace. I feel like I’m just about to burn out completely.
    I have some crocheting that I’ve been trying to get my hands back into and now I have even more reason to make it happen. I think I might find some of what you’re describing. A kind of peace within the chaos of the day.
    thank you and I hope you’re feeling better.

  16. Zoie @ TouchstoneZ   TouchstoneZ

    (Completely personalizing your post ;)

    I hadn’t made the connection between knitting and meditation before. It’s interesting because I am a longtime meditation practitioner and learned to knit as therapy for ADHD.

    I stopped knitting the day before my first child was born and haven’t picked up my needles since (although I thought I would be knitting up a storm and accumulated a huge stash of beautiful yarns while pregnant the first time.) I always views knitting as an act of control and of creation. When I became a parent, I let go of control and was overfull with creation, hence knitting no longer felt attractive.

    But now as a mom of many who has survived PPD, I’ve learned how to be empty and still. The attraction to knitting is returning lately. I actually located my needles and pulled out a knitting book for my bedside table last week after being motivated by a twitter conversation. I’m interested to see what this type of meditation will bring to me…

    Thank you for participating in the Mindful Mama Carnival.

  17. Katie Vyktoriah (SnuggleBubby)   snuggle_bubby

    Hi. I just found your blog and think it’s wonderful. I, too, have suffered from depression (post-natal and otherwise) and have used knitting and other creative dalliances to help me through it. This post has reminded me that I need to get back into it! I’ve just been through a lot of stress lately and have been really starting to spiral, so I think I might have to dig out my needles and yarn. :)

  18. Heather   SoulfullMama

    I have experienced this too. I agree that computer time has been a huge catalyst for depression for me also. I feel disconnected from my family and my home. However, this time around ( with new baby due mid next month) I am finally finished with school, and hopefully not so tethered to the computer. There is something hugely therapeutic about creating something with your hands- something that gives you control over something, albeit small, but also brings your work focus back onto something involving the people you love.

  19. rani   omshesaid

    Thank for sharing your depression and how you have found one way to stave it off. I forwarded this to a friend and hope the finds it as helpful as I have!

  20. CJ   imperfecthappy

    I’m kind of going to echo what Zoie wrote in her comment. I’d never made the connection between knitting and meditation before. I always used sewing and knitting (and crocheting and needlepoint…) as excuses to turn on the tv and watch something I’d otherwise consider a waste of time if I weren’t engaged in some sort of productive endeavor. But reading your post, I realize that doing so, I might have been selling knitting short on two fronts, both on not seeing it as a chance for meditative thinking and as seeing it as a means to an end (a finished project. If, that is, I regularly finished the projects I started). Thanks for the insights about knitting for knitting’s sake!

  21. Beatrice   BeatriceAnd

    Thank you for this post! It’s so important that today, when almost everyone has stress-related issues people find their own methods for dealing with it. Not only for themselves but for their kids’ and families’ sake also. Knitting is great – it’s traditional but it serves the purpose wonderfully. I wrote about a couple other methods for stress relief recently on http://www.kidfreak.blogspot.com so feel free to drop in.

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