Handiwork Makes You Happier

Let’s admit it: we’re stuck in virtual reality and keep on pushing buttons on a daily basis. The overwhelming majority of people have desk jobs and rarely remember they can use hands not only for typing, but also for creating. A recent research corroborates the theory that handiwork triggers processes in the brain that make you feel happier.

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A long-forgotten joy

A human being is a unity of body and mind, and the soul is affected by the body too. The interconnection of all constituents of which a person is comprised is a thing which is almost ineffable. We may conduct hundreds of studies and still fail to grasp the essence of the joy which working brings. And it really does.

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. The quotation from Proverbs is echoed in a new research carried out by K. Lambert, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Richmond. She told a CBS News reporter about her findings, which suggest the brain makes us feel happier when we have done some handiwork.

Be it knitting, ironing or cooking, doing something in the real world we live in it is rewarding, and not only because it can result in something material, like cakes or scarves – it is the work itself that makes you feel better. So why trading our good old reality for the virtual one?

Industrious rodents

According to Lambert, when we engage in some activity, our brain neurochemistry is changed, so what we do can have an effect similar to that of medicines. She used rats to find out how handiwork affects the brain and mood. She divided the rats she had in the laboratory into two groups: the rats from the first group had to dig to get a reward, and the rats belonging to the second group got it regardless of what physical work they did. It turned out that the rodents from group 1 had better mental health than those from group 2. However, the most interesting finding was that when the rats from the first group were given rewards without making them work for it, their stress hormone levels increased.

Researchers from Otago University (NZ) asked 658 students to write down their emotional states and activities for thirteen days. Analysis of this data showed that creative behavior, which included cooking, knitting, performing music, creative writing and several other activities, was associated with feeling happier. Besides, they can make you calmer and even provide you with energy the next day. This finding revealed that being creative affects the body and mood not only at the moment of doing something, but for a longer period.

It’s not the only scientific evidence backing the theory. In 2013, a team of scientists from Cardiff University published an article in which they postulated knitting can be a beneficial activity, as many female knitters who participated in the study reported knitting helped them feel calm and happy. Besides, the research findings suggest knitting can contribute to higher cognitive functioning. However, it’s not the only way the activity can affect humans: according to the scientists, it can also improve communication with other people and social contact.

If you are not into handicrafts, you can satisfy your brain’s need for such activities by means of gardening, cooking, or just folding laundry. It’s just a matter of preferences – anyone can find something of this kind to their liking. It appears that just like there are three parts in a human – the body, the mind, and the soul – there are three kinds of activities one must engage in in order to be happy. It looks like exercising is not the only aspect of our life that the body craves, and handiwork must be an important part of it too, as rodents attest.

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