Some researchers think busy hands may be key to making our brains very happy.
“When we engage in activities, we change the neurochemistry of our brain,” said Kelly Lambert, a neuroscientist at the University of Richmond.
In the 19th century doctors used to prescribe knitting to women who were overwrought with anxiety, “because they sensed that it calmed them down some. And it sounds, ‘Oh, that’s simplistic.’ But when you think about, OK, repetitive movement is increasing certain neurochemicals. And then if you produce something — a hat or a scarf — there’s the reward.”
Speaking of busy hands, one of the things I really enjoy is making miniatures, like “Grammy’s Easter Workshop”, which is traveling to Texas on Friday. I’m hoping it will become a cherished part of the Texas Grandkids’ annual Easter celebrations.
“Busy hands” hobbies are becoming more important in our culture. Between 1980 and 2015, jobs requiring social and analytical skills — desk jobs — increased 94%, while jobs requiring physical skills went up a mere 12%.
And that has Kelly Lambert concerned: “We just sit there. And we press buttons. And you start to lose a sense of control over your environment.”
She’s been using rodents to study the hand-brain connection. Lambert said that rats made to dig for a reward showed greater signs of mental health, when compared to what she calls her “trust fund rats,” who got a pass on doing any physical work.
“So, when we took an animal that was really in tune with the environment and we just gave them their rewards, without having to work for them, their stress hormones went up high — they lost all their benefits,” she said.
Through the years, I’ve learned that, if I don’t have a “busy hands” project going, I get crabby. When I was a kid, I loved messing around at my dad’s work bench. One of my favorite Christmas presents EVER was a kid-sized, ALL PINK chest of wood working tools! When I got older, my folks got me a sewing machine.
I’ve had a pretty hard life, what with PTSD and various health problems. But I can honestly say that, besides my faith, it’s been keeping my hands busy that has kept me the most sane and balanced. Besides sewing, carpentry and building miniatures, I’ve enjoyed painting, drawing, sculpting, stained glass, stonework, gardening, beading, making jewelry, and keeping tropical fish. I tried knitting once upon a time, but found I prefer crocheting, which is my current passion.
When I read the article linked below, I couldn’t help thinking of all the angry young people demanding this, that, and the other. Methinks it would be a really good idea if our kids spent a whole lot LESS time pushing buttons and a whole lot MORE time making and building real stuff with their own hands.