Interesting statement from an outsider’s perspective who sees you hunching over a sewing machine for hours sewing together little bits of fabric you have cut up. If anything, most people would call that a recipe for frustration. So why do we say that sewing is so relaxing?
Modern-day stress often activates fight-or-flight response, and many of us exist in a constant state of heightened physiological activation as a result. In contrast, when participating in craft activities such as sewing, the relaxation response also activates those same parts of the brain associated with digestion, blood pressure, and heart rate. It affects us positively in that our breathing becomes more gentle, stress hormone levels decrease, blood pressure drops and our heart beats more slowly.
Traditionally, the relaxation response has been associated with meditation. Meditative activities stimulate the structure of the brain’s reward system, particularly the left frontal lobe, which has been correlated with mood elevation. Activities like sewing can release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which triggers the brain’s reward system. This leads us to associate sewing with pleasurable feelings such as happiness and calm.
For many of us simply walking into a fabric store gives us “warm fuzzies” such as joy and contentment. All these as a result of the neurotransmitter glutamate which promotes the association between positive feelings invoked by a specific activity and its sensory cues.
S-E-W the next time you find yourself frazzled by a long, complex, or stubborn sewing project, take a step back, inhale deeply, and remind yourself of the relaxation benefits of sewing. As a sewer the most important thing to remember is that the process of sewing is just as good as the final creation or masterpiece.