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What Do Running And Knitting Have in Common? Both Can Make Us Feel Better
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Fri, Apr 4th 2014
When I'm stressed out, I often go running. I pound out a few miles - sometimes thinking about what's stressing me out, and sometimes thinking about something else completely - while miraculously blasting out the stress while revving up my heart rate.
I truly feel better when I'm done. Most of the time, whatever seemed so awful before I began running simply doesn't seem so bad anymore. That's why I wasn't too surprised to see Jen Miller's column in The New York Times about how running became her most effective form of therapy during a very dark time in her life.
Now, in a much better psychological place, she confides, "Running continues to be a balm."
A few days after reading Miller's column, I stumbled upon an article on CNN Health about the therapeutic benefits of knitting. It told the story of Sarah Huerta, who found relief from her post-traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety when her husband gave her a pair of knitting needles. The act of knitting helped her center herself on something she was creating instead of the difficult thoughts and feelings inside her.
Again, it was a balm that she continues to use.
Isn't it interesting that two very different activities can yield similar therapeutic results for people suffering from challenges such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression? Indeed, experts say that activities such as knitting can also ameliorate stress and chronic pain, and may be good for the brain.
For a while, neuroscientists have been exploring how exercise impacts mental health (for my summary of this research, click here). Most theorize that it's a combination of physical, emotional, and social benefits.
Now, neuroscientists are exploring crafting activities such as knitting to find out why they may be beneficial too. Many say it could be a combination of the mental complexity of the activity, the meditative nature of it, and the satisfaction that comes from creating something.
While running and knitting are vastly different activities, both have helped people recover from debilitating emotional pain. Have you tried either of these - or something similar - to achieve emotional well-being? Please share your experiences here. And if you are looking for an activity that can bring some balance to your life, you might want to consider one of these.
Miller, J. A. (March 20, 2014). Running as therapy. The New York Times. http://nyti.ms/1qYBf4F
Wilson, J. (March 27, 2014). This is your brain on knitting. CNN Health. http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/25/health/brain-crafting-benefits/index.html?hpt=hp_bn13