Repetitive motions like housework, crafting, building, and fixing are a great way to focus the mind — or clear it into a meditative state. Maybe you think up your best ideas while you work, or a solution to a problem that’s been irking you. We asked a few DIYers what they think about while they work.
When tackling a project like upholstering a headboard, Grace Bonney’s mind always wanders to the same two topics: her dream home and her family. The curator of the popular home décor and DIY site Design*Sponge says, “I’ll pick up some fabric and start to daydream about how I’d use it as a dramatic curtain to separate the living room and the screened-in porch of my imaginary house.” (Grace actually lives in an apartment in Brooklyn, New York). As her tasks near completion, Grace often thinks of her mother, an avid home decorator. “She inspired me to pursue a career in design. When I’m working on a project, I sometimes feel like I’m channeling her abilities.”
It’s well-known that working with your hands is, for many, a way to unwind and help your mind focus, work through problems and hone ideas. It doesn’t matter whether you’re cleaning, crafting, building, fixing — any rhythmic, repetitive motions can act as a form of meditation. And while you’re in that trance-like state, which Harvard doctor Herbert Benson, M.D. coined “the relaxation response,” you tap into the parts of your brain responsible for learning, creativity, and insight. In fact, recent research from the Mayo Clinic found that people who engage in DIY activities like knitting are 30 to 50 percent less likely to experience memory loss.
For Jenny Hart, owner of the hip embroidery pattern company Sublime Stitching in Austin, Texas, DIYing is a form of stress relief. “I first tried embroidery during a very difficult time in my life: my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly, and my father was hospitalized,” Jenny recalls. “I thought I wouldn’t have the patience for embroidery, but when I finally gave it a try, I felt my entire world slow down. My body relaxed and my mind became calm and focused.” Jenny found stitching so soothing that she began doing it for 3-4 hours every day.
DIY Life contributor and home improvement professional Brian Kelsey works on building and repair projects in the evening hours while his young children are sleeping, “which allows my my mind to wander, and settle,” he says. To Brian, the act of working with his hands — focusing on creating crisp paint lines or perfectly mitered joints — is in itself meditative. “You simply aren’t able to think about the mortgage [that’s] due, your cranky boss, or whatever other stress you have in your life.”[via DIY Life]