Ever since I was little, I have needed to craft – not just wanted but needed it. No matter what else was going on in my life, creating helped me feel good. That “crafting high” is what I needed. Many of us joke about being addicted to fabric or quilting. Believe it or not, there may be a grain of truth in that statement as I learned from a Quilting Daily article by Tracy Mooney. To understand that truth, we need to understand a little about our brains and happiness chemicals. Don’t worry, this is not new age mumbo jumbo, but rooted in science and probably your own experience.
- Endorphins are produced to help mask pain. They are released after exercise, like a long walk or a hike. Cutting, stitching and ironing may feel like exercise. Attending a quilt show is definitely exercise. I would caution against intentionally sticking yourself with pins to release those endorphins. The healthiest way to get that little quilting endorphin rush from laughing with your quilting buddies on retreat and giggling about your latest faux pas. Those mini endorphin rushes come from the social aspect of quilting and the ability to not take yourself too seriously. Laugh at your mistakes, learn and move on.
- Serotonin is released when we feel important. How can quilting help you feel important? Many of us make quilts for others, friends, family, or charities. That act of giving helps us to feel important. Quilters tend to have a sense of community and sharing. Sharing techniques during workshops or showing what we have accomplished, like at Sew and Tell events, also release serotonin. That rush of serotonin is probably what entices some quilters to enter their work competitions.
- Dopamine is triggered by reward and is the most addictive of the brain chemicals. It is responsible for our love of chocolate, coffee or wine. But it can also be created when we complete tasks or learn something new. Quilting has plenty of opportunities for dopamine. Completing each step of a quilt is its own reward. Just think of how good you feel after you have all your fabric cut, complete blocks, or put the last stitch in a binding. Better yet, think of wonderful feeling when you complete a UFO!
- Oxytocin comes from fostering close personal bonds. Quilters definitely thrive in communities. The community may be a guild, a bee, or quilt along. It is the time we spend with each other. That is one of the reasons that quarantines were so difficult. We were separated from the people we needed to be close to. Many guilds, instructors, and others tried to fill that void with Zoom, Facebook Live and other events so that we wouldn’t lose that sense of community.
Balancing these four happy brain chemicals helps to reduce our stress level and keep us healthy. We instinctively know this. That is why it is so important to make the time to craft or quilt when life seems to be spiraling the most.