5 Reasons Sewing is Therapeutic

If you’re already into sewing, you know how therapeutic a good sewing session can feel. The minutes seem to melt into hours and before you know it, you’ve created a quilt and your worries don’t seem to matter as much. But there has actually been research done about this. Here are 5 scientific things I’ve learned about why sewing is so therapeutic.

1. Sewing is like meditation. This is one thing I read recently. Because your brain can only process so much information at one time, when you immerse yourself in creating something through sewing, you lose focus on other negative things that might be weighing you down. As you lose yourself in the project, it may feel like time ceases to exist. I also found this: In a TED talk from 2004, Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explained that when you’re creating something (like sewing), you don’t have enough attention left over to monitor how your body feels or think about your problems at home. This puts your mind and body into a state similar to that of meditation and quiets your fight or flight reflexes caused by stress. Interesting, right?

2. Sewing is a natural anti-depressant. I found this interesting, too. When you do something pleasurable, like sew, your brain releases a chemical called dopamine. CNN reported on a survey published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy. The study surveyed 3500 knitters (which gives very similar therapeutic effects as sewing). Of those surveyed, 81 percent reported feeling happy, and over half reported feeling very happy after knitting. This is likely because knitting (and sewing) causes your brain to release dopamine, and that acts as a natural anti-depressant. 

3. Sewing may help protect your brain against the signs of aging. The next thing I learned was that as the numbers of people living with dementia rise, scientists are working hard to find ways to improve people’s thinking as they age. More research is pointing to something called neuroplasticity — which means that our brains can adapt to their environment at any age. Activities that stimulate the brain may actually improve neuroplasticity and significantly delay dementia. Sewing requires you to use many different parts of your brain because you’re using spatial thinking, creative thinking and problem solving. The more you use your brain, the better your chances are at warding off early dementia.

4. Sewing can help lower your blood pressure. I read this clinical study commissioned by the Home Sewing Association. The study concluded that the average heartbeat of experienced sewers dropped by 11 beats per minute after sewing, and novice sewers’ heartbeats dropped by about 7 beats per minute. Participants’ heartbeats were also measured during other activities like playing cards, painting, reading a newspaper and playing a hand-held video game. During all of the other activities, participants’ heartrates actually increased from 4 to 8 beats per minute!

5. Your finished sewing project can bring you a great sense of pride. Now this I knew, and I’m sure you did, too! In addition to the mental health benefits of the sewing process, admiring your finished project can bring you happiness. You get to experience the joy of accomplishing something and hear the appreciation of others who see the fruits of your labor.

I know you know this about me by now – I love sewing, and I love to talk about embroidery and quilting and other creative projects involving needle, thread and cloth. If you have any questions about what I do or how I can help you, just ask. The pleasure will be mine!

-Teresa Giltner, Owner, MT Needleworks

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