While waiting an interminable amount of time to see my doctor on Friday I read an article in her office about how working with your hands is good for mental health. The gist of the story was that activities like cooking, sewing or wood working actually enhance feelings of well-being because of the tangible rewards invovled. The reward is being able to see and touch what you’ve created once you’ve finished.
This sense of instant gratification does have a scientific explanation. Studies have shown that feel good brain chemicals such as seratonin and dopamine are released when we engage in activities that involve working with our hands. Some theories suggest that this sense of accomplishment was necessary to survival back when everything we made was done by hand. It definitely makes the case for dragging my sewing machine out of the closet and finally learning to use it.
I also read about a man named Mathew Crawford who had a PhD in Political Philosophy but works in a mechanic shop repairing motorcycles in Richmond, VA. Mr. Crawford authored a book called “The Case For Working With Your Hands:Or Why Office Work is Bad For Us and Fixing Things Feels Good.” In this book Crawford makes an argument against the devaluing of the skilled trades and explains how that type of work is actually more rewarding than office work. Work such as car repair, plumbing, carpentry, electrical work and stonemasonry offer a way of thinking about life and relating to the world. When speaking of the repair work he does now Mr. Crawford had this to say, “It’s physical and concrete with clear criteria of success and failure: the overall effect is energizing.”
With most office jobs the completion of daily responsibilities doesn’t result in something tangible. At the end of my day I can’t sit there with a stack of something and say, “I made this.” The lack of having clear goals is what causes a feeling of uselessness and dispiriting according to Dr. Crawford.
So today I will work on making something with my hands that I can be proud of, I think I’ll start with an amazing french onion soup!