Every year, without fail, the doldrum-inducing qualities of June creeps up on me and knocks me sideways. Here in Aotearoa we tend to think of July and August as ‘peak winter’ but, for many of us, June is the one that’s hardest to get through.
If, like me, you feel this way - rest assured you're not alone or imagining it - you too have a case of the SAD's (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Thankfully, knitting is here to help!
WHY DO WE FEEL THIS WAY?
June may not be the coldest month, but it’s always the darkest one. In addition to it creeping towards the shortest day of the year, with Solstice happening around the 20th, we also have a complete lack of sunlight. I adore the classic Ōtautahi winter days of crisp frosty nights followed by clear bright sunny days, where at least you can feel some sun on the face. Yet in June we often end up with day after day of grey drizzly 'meh' days that leave you wondering ‘What’s a sun!?’.
June 2020 had the least amount of recorded sunshine hours in Christchurch in more than two decades with 75.4 hours of sun, well below the June average of 117.1 hours!
Which is when Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately abbreviated to SAD) kicks in. SAD occurs in climates where there is less sunlight at certain times of the year. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, feelings of hopelessness and social withdrawal.
The winter blues are real and if you’ve been feeling a bit low, tired, reclusive, and emotionally unbalanced, it’s for actual reasons! We need sunlight to feel good, and remember what the joy in life is about. After-all we are living, breathing growing, creatures - and like all other animals and plants on earth, we need light and warmth to thrive!
Apart from investing in a good B and D vitamin complex to take each day, which can help level out low winter moods - it’s also the perfect time to embrace the therapeutic and healing qualities of knitting.
Knitting has been clinically proven to be relaxing and keeps our minds and bodies centred with its repetitive rhythmic movements. Research shows knitting and yarn craft, like other meditative activities, can “activate areas of the brain that are good for generating a sense of calm, (and contribute to) improved emotional processing and better decision making”.
The rhythm of knitting helps with serotonin release. This is the chemical transmitter that helps regulate anxiety, happiness, and mood. There is a strong connection between knitting and the feelings of calm and happiness in the brain.Basically, knitting is a form of meditation - and shares the same mental and mindfulness benefits as meditation, breathing exercises and yoga.
Knitting can help with focusing one’s awareness on the present - I know myself that when I'm knitting I'm too busy thinking about my stitches to be agonising over the bad day I've had, or worrying about something way ahead in the future that I can't control. By relaxing into knitting, attention can be focused on breathing, clearing anxious and compulsive thoughts, and taking the time to be here in the moment.
Our brains aren’t evolved for the endless multi-tasking that we do, the pressures we put on ourselves, and that a capitalist society puts upon us, each and every day. By knitting, we can force our brain to engage in just one activity at a time, slowing us down, and preventing feelings of burn-out and stress.
Stitchlinks is a non profit, community interest group leading a movement to use knitting for better wellbeing. A study they launched found that the more people knitted, the calmer and happier they felt. Their prime focus is on the use of therapeutic knitting as a healthcare tool – unravelling the neuroscience behind its bilateral, cross midline, rhythmic, automatic movements and the complex combination of physiological, psychological, behavioural, social and creative benefits experienced.
Using knitting as a social outlet also helps us to experience better moods and mental health. Whether it’s via online groups and communities, or real life knitting circles, these support networks can help with anxiety and depression and help up combat those natural tendencies to withdraw and become socially distant throughout winter.
Outlaw Yarn offers a whole series of knitting groups and workshops each week which knitters, crocheted and crafters of all levels are invited to join. Check out Outlaw’s events page and Facebook for information on sessions, or drop the lovely team a line. They have a beautiful, warm and spacious community room where you’ll be able to meet other like-minded individuals and get that social boost we could all do with at this time of year.
Finally, after a winter of knitting to boost your mental, physical and social wellbeing - you also have the added bonus of having a beautiful handmade item, or items, that you can enjoy and take pride in all-year round. What you knit for yourself is completely up to you, but no matter what it is, the feelings of satisfaction and pride that come with completing something creative is a really good mood and self-esteem booster.
I know that I often experience feelings of guilt and frustration during winter when all I want to do is stay home and nap, lacking creative inspiration and motivation, so it’s nice to know that there’s a creative project on the go that's still low pressure, and helps me to relax.
It makes me feel like my days are more than just work and sleep!
Whatever your knitting level, we can’t deny that picking up the needles this winter is good for us! If you're new to the craft, and now is the perfect time to learn!
The fabulous team at Outlaw Yarn HQ are always so happy to educate and enlighten knitters with advice, tips, project ideas and will get you set up with everything you need for to get you through to Spring...and beyond!
Until next time, happy knitting!
I'm Lou, an Ōtautahi based personal stylist and craft-lover, and this is Never Been Knit - my journey from complete knitting virgin to...well, let's find out together!