Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Confession

Sewing certainly can be challenging. And there are definitely moments when it's frustrating! So how can it also be that I find it relaxing?

Turns out someone has studied that... ;)

In 1995 the Home Sewing Association (HSA) paid Dr. Robert Reiner at the New York University Medical Center to conduct a clinical research study on the short term physical impacts of sewing.

Dr. Reiner and his team had thirty women - 15 novice sewers and 15 experienced sewers - come into the laboratory and participate in 5 short activities:
  • playing a solo card game (War)
  • playing a hand held computer game
  • reading a newspaper
  • painting at an easel
  • sew a simple pattern on a pillow
Before and after each activity (which different women completed in different orders) their heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and perspiration were measured.

Four of the five activities led to increased heart rate. Only one of the activities led to decreased heart rate! I bet you can guess which one... ;)

Yup, it was the sewing. Sewing led to statistically significant reductions in heart rate, blood pressure and perspiration rates when compared to the other activities. While these are phenomena associated with stress reduction and other good-for-your-body things, the researchers were quick to point out that all they have shown is a short-term benefit and the public shouldn't draw any conclusions about long-term health benefits from this study.

So, I think I'm allowed to say this, because I work in the field of doing psychological research: once again, research has been done to show us something that we pretty much knew all along! ;)

While the results are pleasantly validating, the bit that I found more interesting was the various explanations that have been offered up for this finding. Two main hypotheses appear to be:
  • Crafts like sewing and knitting have a rhythmic and repetitive motion component that is inherently soothing.
  • By definition, if you are focusing on a craft, you can't be worried or upset or anxious about other things going on in your life.
Of course, there's no reason that both can't be true...

My question to you has to do with the WHY? Assuming that, like me, you are frequently challenged and sometimes frustrated by your sewing, why do you think that we love sewing so much and often find it relaxing?

Photo credit: zappowbang


gaylen said...

Oh, even though I am often frustrated by it - I am away from the mess of my "real" life. I'm in a space I created just for me. It's lovely and I when the current project is too much, I can set it aside to marinate and make a TNT to feel better and productive. g

Alviana said...

for me its all about personal satisfaction. Every human being in this world need a hobby no matter what it is. I love the feeling after finish sewing a garment. :)

Summerset said...

I think it is the sense of accomplishment when so many things in our lives are beyond our control. This is one area that we can control.

Kristine said...

In my opinion, sewing has to be done stitch by stitch, so it forces us to slow down, and look at a process step-by-step. Also, there simply isn't enough space in my brain for the daily worries and my sewing memory, so since sewing forces me to focus on the task at hand, the daily worries are forgotten (for the time being):)

gwensews said...

For me, a challenging project isn't necessarily a stress factor. In fact, suppose every sewing project went exactly as planned--never having to think through a technique or find a solution to a problem. How boring that would become. Perhaps part of the enjoyment of sewing comes from problem solving--and it gratifies us when we're successful.


Anonymous said...

When I'm sewing I'm so focused and involved with what I'm doing that everything else sort of fades away, much the same as when I'm gardening. It's sort of my "escapism" from the stress of everyday life! I enjoy the creative process, the successes, the challenges and the wadders, excuse me, learning experiences!


Anonymous said...

This was an interesting post. I find sewing so very relaxing because it is a wonderful creative outlet, and I love working with beautiful fabrics.

Emily said...

I completely agree with the repetitive motion theory. I also think that I find such satisfaction in finishing something, so the activity has a big payoff for me -- even if it's sometimes frustrating along the way. As for video games and other such activities, I certainly agree that they are stressful. It's a running joke between my husband and I that I always get frustrated whenever I try to play a video game with him. Maybe it's something about competition too? sewing is solitary, whereas other things aren't?

Sarah said...

Okay, so I am living proof that sewing is calming. I have asthma, and one day I felt a little tight on the way from my dorm to work, and stopped by the nurse. She was ready to send me to bed when Mom called, and I asked Mom... She told me to hand the phone to the nurse... And told the nurse that me sewing, despite the dust factor, would stop me from getting worse. And it did! I have used sewing to calm myself more than once... seems to just make you slow down. It's great!
And I always feel awesome when I make something someone will wear, onstage or in life.