Body & Mind

Work With Your Hands to Clear Your Mind

A single light bulb hangs from the ceiling in a dimly lit room, aided only by the fading light of the setting sun forcing its way through a dusty window. The room itself is virtually empty, except for a few boxes stacked in the corner. A couple of shelves are lined up along the far wall beside a long desk with an old stereo perched on top. In the middle of the room, directly under the hanging light bulb, sits a small circular table with a pedal connected and a stool.

“This is my sanctuary,” said Melissa, a real estate professional. While a slightly dirty back room may not seem like an oasis for most, it is exactly that for Melissa, a real estate professional.

“Pottery is my escape,” she said. “It’s the one thing that allows me to really turn off the outside world and relax. It doesn’t matter what has happened during the course of the day, once I sit down and turn the wheel on, everything else just melts away. It’s just me and the clay.”

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For many people like Melissa, working with your hands is a way to relax and unwind. Research shows that doing so can enhance mental health and, boost your mood, decrease stress and relieve anxiety.

Melissa walks over to the shelves and pulls a mound of clay from a large plastic container. With a small bucket of water beside her, she sits on the stool and places the clay in the center of her wheel. Her foot taps the pedal beside her. The wheel begins to turn with a soft hum coming from the motor below. Her hands dip into the water before she gently begins to shape the clay, which rotates quickly in front of her. The spinning wheel almost becomes hypnotic as her hands glide over the surface of the clay. She adds pressure when needed to form it into the desired shape. You can see the calm focus in her eyes, unwavering from the project in front of her.

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Pottery is a great example of a hobby that allows you to forget about the stresses of your everyday life and unwind.  It allows you to stop worrying about whatever may be bothering you and focus on one simple thing, and give it your complete attention. One task that’s right in front of you. It’s not just pottery than allows us to do this. When we create or repair something, we often feel vital and a sense of accomplishment.

All too often we spend hours working behind a computer without seeing any fruits of our labor. However, when it comes to working on projects with our hands, be it creating pottery, carving wood, or restoring an old convertible, there is a tangible outcome – a rewarding sense of accomplishment when we’re finished. It allows us to become lost in the process of our own creation, and in turn, creates a state of meditation. When we allow ourselves to be deeply absorbed in a task, we lose self-consciousness and pass the time in a contented state.  The simple joy of making something out of nothing adds to the experience of any sort of handcraft.

Think back to the last time you created something from scratch and remember how it feels. How did you feel when you were creating it? How did you feel when you were finished?  Completing any project can be very rewarding, and many people enjoy sharing before and after photos of their work. But it’s the in-between time that often goes unnoticed – and that is where the true joy of working with your hands lies.