HCA West Florida Division - February 21, 2017

As it turns out, there's even more incentive for you to join a knitting circle than just the cozy scarves, blankets and other homemade crafts you'd create. Craft activities - like knitting and crocheting - also have a number of great health benefits.

Research suggests participating in arts and crafts activities can reduce stress, make you feel happier and stimulate brain function.

Craft and relax

The next time you need to de-stress, you might find that knitting a pair of socks does the trick. That's because the rhythmic working of your knitting needles can put you in a relaxed state, one with similar benefits to those associated with meditation.

And those benefits are nothing to sneeze at. The calming effect from both crafting and meditation can help lower heart rate and blood pressure, fight inflammation and reduce stress hormone levels - all major contributors to your overall health.

Feel-good effect

There is some indication that dopamine, the neurotransmitter released by your brain when you do something enjoyable (like eat or have sex), could play a role in crafting.

The British Journal of Occupational Therapy published a study in 2012 in which 3,545 knitters around the world were surveyed. Survey respondents were asked to indicate their mood before and after knitting. Less than one percent of all respondents reported that they remained sad after knitting. And, of the survey respondents with depression, 81 percent reported feeling happy after knitting.

But it's not just the act itself that has a feel-good effect. Completing a project you started - whether it's crocheting a sweater or building a birdhouse - comes with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It feels good to finish.

Brain boost

Crafting is both a leisure activity that people enjoy and one that is mentally stimulating. Experts believe many different parts of the brain are engaged during these activities - among other functions, they work your attention span, memory function and information processing centers.

This brain stimulation leads to another positive side effect of crafting: helping to prevent cognitive decline and deter illnesses like dementia.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences revealed that cognitive activities such as craft activities (quilting, knitting, etc.), computer use, playing games, reading books and watching less TV were associated with 30 to 50 percent reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment.

While there's still more research to be done, it is evident there's much to be gained from taking up a craft in your spare time. So, if you haven't joined the neighborhood knitting club yet, what are you waiting for? The proof is in the purling.