Comfort for Critters was created to help animal shelter pets, and clearly this remains our overriding mission. As a goal, it doesn’t get much simpler, and hasn’t changed a bit since the first blanket was stitched in 2007. We endeavor to comfort all the pets we can’t adopt (but would like to!).
However, it’s become clear that God had more blessings in mind, when the seed for CFC was planted 10 years ago. I’ve heard numerous stories about how “crafting to comfort pets” has brought comfort to the person on the other end of the yarn. I’m not sure if “yarn therapy” is actually a thing, but after doing a bit of research it seems its effects are real!
I’d like to share my findings with current volunteers, as a way of validating what they already know. I’d also like to share them with those considering a helping CFC, or any similar group. Your desire to help others is to be applauded and listened to. It may be your mind’s way of getting you some of these amazing benefits. Maybe you even know someone who could benefit from a bit of “yarn therapy”? If they love animals, it may be a sneaky way of securing for them some of these blessings!
These studies are available in their entirety on the internet, but each one has a bottom line that’s heart-warming to us crafters:
- A study published by the Journal of Positive Psychology (Dr. Tamlin Connor, lead author) showed that students who participated in calming exercises, like knitting and crocheting, were happier on the days after they completed these exercises. They were more enthusiastic, in general, too.
- The Mayo Clinic has reported that senior citizens who participate in crafts (in this case, knitting), are 30-50% less likely to experience “mild cognitive impairment,” or memory loss, than those seniors who did not. Another study shows that the two-handed and repetitive aspects of knitting, combined with the tactile and visual stimulation, make it an especially helpful therapy for the brain.
- A 2013 survey, conducted in conjunction with Cardiff University, questioned over 3,500 knitters worldwide. It found that the more frequently the people would knit, the happier and calmer they felt.
- Carrie and Alton Barron explain in their book, “The Creativity Cure: Building Happiness with Your Own Two Hands,” how crafting is a great tool for alleviating anxiety and depression. “The rhythmic, mathematical nature of knitting and crocheting keep the mind absorbed in a healthy way, providing an escape from stressful thoughts but allowing for internal reflection,” says Barron.
- A study in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences showed that cutting down on TV time and increasing time spent on crafts (such as knitting) decreased the odds of memory loss, later in life, by 30-50%. It also promoted the development of neural pathways in the brain.
- Herbert Benson, a leader in mind/body medicine, reports that the repetitive nature of needlework creates a “relaxed state” in a person. This state is similar to what’s achieved by meditation and yoga.
I’ve personally heard from numerous volunteers that the act of knitting or crocheting has helped them tremendously in a few of these challenges they have faced:
- Trying to lose weight (crafting, instead of snacking, in front of the TV).
- Trying to quit smoking (crafting instead of “lighting up” after a meal).
- A way to “keep busy” during times of high-stress. It’s used as a way of channeling down time into something productive.
- To provide a productive feeling after a job loss or during prolonged unemployment.
- To give a feeling of pride and confidence, during difficult times in life, by creating something beautiful.
- It eases the sense of helplessness during a period of recovery from injury or illness (yourself or others).
- It’s a way to ease stress, which allows you to focus your mind on something productive and provide a distraction from concerns.
- A great way to ease loneliness by meeting people with similar interests. Knitting and crocheting can be done almost anywhere, requires minimal, portable supplies, and is a great conversation starter.
- Rehabilitation exercise after a traumatic brain injury.
- A way to channel grief over the loss of a pet or a person, into something productive and meaningful.
- A means to “give back,” in a tangible way, during retirement.
- One way to ease frustration over not being able to adopt a pet.
- A way to do something “social” in a retirement home that involves skill and creativity, yet spurs conversation and sharing.
- A way of bonding with someone with different life experiences, but who shares a love for animals or crafting.
- Something to keep kids busy, while teaching them the value of “giving back” to society and caring for those who can never pay you back.
So even though CFC started as a way to help pets, I’ve come to realize that helping people is in our DNA too. Crafting a pet blanket may put you on the road to feeling better, even if you already feel great. So forget the “apple a day” and try a row or two a day. Crafting may just be what the doctor ordered!