Stressed Out? Try Hitting the Woodshop

Could it be that we’re in a renaissance of working with our hands? I mean really working with our hands? You know, with heavy tools that leave calluses, on projects that at the end of the day, week or month give you something that can’t be emailed or uploaded, but that can be used for a physical purpose? As we become more plugged in — working at desk jobs where our hands touch only a keyboard, mouse and iPhone all day — many are feeling a new desire to unplug and do something more tangible.

That’s what author Matthew Crawford has discovered and shared in his book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. With a PhD in political philosophy, he ditched a job as the executive director of a think tank after only 10 months to start his own one-man motorcycle repair shop, where he’s never been happier.

The fact is that humans have a primal urge to work with their hands. Psychologist Kelly Lambert has observed that mice that worked hard digging up Froot Loops were more emotionally resilient to stress than those given the treat without effort. For humans, working with our hands to solve problems modifies our responses to stress by creating dopamine and serotonin in our brains, which makes us feel happy.

So, in a sense, having an almighty home woodshop can be a great antidepressant.

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