Harvard University's world-renowned mind/body expert, Herbert Benson, MD, says that repetitive and rhythmic crafts such as knitting may even evoke what he calls the relaxation response-a feeling of bodily and mental calm that's been scientifically proven to enhance health and reduce the risk of heart disease, anxiety, and depression. "You can induce the relaxation response through any type of repetition, whether it's repeating a word, prayer, or action, such as knitting or sewing," he notes. "The act of doing a task over and over again breaks the train of everyday thought, and that's what releases stress."
Unfortunately, many of us push crafting and creativity to the bottom of our "to do" list. Maybe we feel guilty for doing something for ourselves-women, of course, are taught that everyone else's needs should come first-or maybe we feel that even when we're relaxing, we should be doing something productive (that old multitasking thing). But now that research is showing the creative arts are good for our health and relationships, we no longer need to view leisure pursuits as self-indulgences. We can recast them in a new light: crafts aren't just enjoyable, they're downright therapeutic.