Learning a new skill, like knitting, can help us maintain the health of our brain. The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) focuses on brain health underlying people’s ability to think and reason as they age, including aspects of memory, perception, and judgment. They recently published a report entitled How to Sustain Brain Healthy Behaviors, which emphasizes the importance of trying new novel activities to stimulate your brain. One of the benefits of knitting is that there is always something new to learn! The process of learning new techniques and patterns is seemingly endless.

Here are some of the practical tips from the feature on cognitively stimulating activities, along with related knitting tips.

1) Find new ways to stimulate your brain. Novelty is important to continually challenge the brain and is an element in what makes even routine cognitive activities interesting and challenging.

Betsan Corkhill mentions frequently in her stitchlinks.com writing that trying new patterns and seeking new challenges can stimulate new neural connections and keep our knitting practices as engaging as possible.

2) Engage your brain along with someone else. Pick a skill or hobby that you want to learn and find a mentor, friend, or companion to help you do it. Social aspects of activities that challenge your brain can help inspire you to continue your efforts. If being with other people motivates you as it does for many people, join a group activity.

Knitting can be a very social activity and many find support from other knitters through local yarn shops or guilds. There is a long standing tradition of knitting circles bringing communities together.

3) Choose an activity that you enjoy. This will make it easier to stay motivated and committed over time.

Most people we teach to knit enjoy it, and especially those that overcome the initial challenge find that they feel the greatest sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

4) Make it easy on yourself. Select activities which fit in well with your schedule and are easily accessible so you can stay engaged in the activity.

Knitting is an exceptionally portable and easy craft to do just about anywhere. It is not messy or difficult to do in a variety of settings. Picking a variety of patterns from easy to challenging can keep you engaged in any setting.

The GCBH group recently partnered with researcher BJ Fogg, Stanford University Professor and Director of the Behavior Design Lab. Dr. Fogg is the author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything. He emphasizes that creating a healthier and happier life starts with tiny habits, but in addition we should make a habit of constantly seeking new novel experiences. There is a ripple effect where if you feel good about what you are doing, you will do it more. Our emotional responses can guide our habits. Knitting is an excellent habit to connect with both mentally and emotionally.

The Foundation for Art and Healing was founded to embrace the arts as a proven path towards improved personal and public health. Building off this research, Project Knitwell provides knitting as a tool for creative expression to help many facing stress find a new positive routine.

“Creative expression also has the power to improve well-being by helping us understand ourselves and shifting perspectives that reinforce positive behaviors. Physiologically, making art has powerful effects on our bodies: reducing blood pressure, bolstering our immune system, improving brain cognition, and fighting inflammation.”