Mental Health Benefits of Woodworking

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Mental health has returned to the public discourse between the global pandemic and sociopolitical tensions. 

What used to be poorly understood and often misunderstood or underestimated now preoccupies us. And as it does, many of us turn to therapeutic activities and fulfilling hobbies to improve our well-being. 

If you’ve been following us for a while, chances are you’re interested in woodworking. Perhaps you know how it can help with depression, among other mental health disorders. 

But how exactly does it do so, and what are other mental health benefits of woodworking? Perhaps most importantly, how can such an activity be connected to mental health?

Let’s find out.

Promoting mental health

woodworker in his shop

First, let’s contextualize said benefits. 

Certainly, professional help is often the best asset for improving mental health. 

Science has advanced in strides across psychology, psychiatry, and mental health medication in the past decades. Behavioral therapy alone can work wonders, from the mildest cases to the most severe ones.

It’s not the only route available, or at the very least, not always a standalone one. Case in point, the mental health and addiction recovery experts at Archstone Behavioral Health, suggest four additional therapeutic pylons:

These, they assert, are fundamental assets toward improved mental well-being. Whether part of a psychotherapy program or as standalone activities, they can safeguard against declining mental health. 

operating table saw to make groove and tongue joint

In cases of addiction (like the story of Phil Cohen), which often overlap with poor mental health, they can bolster one’s recovery capital.

In this context, woodworking can truly emerge as more than a creative, satisfying hobby. It can tick all of the above boxes and yield tremendous benefits if you’re ready to reap them.

The mental health benefits of woodworking

To elaborate, let us examine woodworking along these lines – and see how science agrees with Archstone’s assertion.

Woodworking as a physical activity

For one, woodworking is, by all accounts, a physical activity. It may not be intense exercise per se, but it doesn’t need to be to offer mental health benefits. Casual walks can serve this purpose, as WebMD finds that woodworking can also help.

Consider how the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) frames the exploration of physical activity (PA):

wood joinery

“Numerous epidemiological studies have demonstrated that lower amounts of physical activity (PA) or greater amounts of time spent in sedentary behaviors are associated with greater risk of poor mental health.”

Here, it’s “sedentary behaviors” that woodworking helps with the most. Woodworking is not passive; it requires concentration, focus, and an active body. 

That is why ComPsych dubs “making and fixing”-type hobbies as “flow experiences,” which are distinctly beneficial for mental health.

Woodworking as a creative outlet

Closely aligned with the above comes the nature of woodworking as a creative hobby. It is not a pastime, as ComPsych notes, but a constructive activity. 

Your creations can become permanent fixtures in your home, yard, or workplace. And even if they don’t, few things compare to the joy of observing a finished creation better than all before it.

Here, many of the mental health benefits of woodworking as a hobby become apparent and come in full swing. Science agrees as NCBI explains:

“Art therapy can help people express themselves more freely, improve their mental health, and improve interpersonal relationships. […]It fosters a sense of self-sufficiency and the deep satisfaction of using one’s artistic ability and mental capacity to generate outcomes one values and desires to share further. Participating in creative activities can help people cope with stress and despair and alleviate the burden of chronic mental illnesses.”

woodworking art project

If this sounds applicable to woodworking, it’s because it is much like clay modeling, which the study brings up. Woodworking ticks these same boxes that make it a potent creative outlet.

Studies aside, famous woodworking enthusiasts will also present this factor as one of the primary mental health benefits of woodworking. Consider Nick Offerman, for example, and how his appreciation for woodworking echoes the study’s findings.

The habitual benefits of woodworking

Still, let’s assume you’re only now exploring woodworking. You may not yet see its benefits as a physical activity, and it may not yet be as creatively fulfilling as it can become over time. 

Are there other mental health benefits of woodworking you can look forward to? Yes, as soon as it becomes a habit.

The cornerstone of cognitive-behavioral therapy lies in uprooting harmful habits and replacing them with beneficial ones. 

woodworking

Think of how Psychology Today’s Sarah Greenberg argues that “lifestyle changes can help people manage anxiety and depression and take charge of their mental wellbeing.” Or how the American Psychological Association (APA) reflects that in its instructions for psychology teachers.

What woodworking can do for mental health begins with its foundation as a habit. As soon as it becomes one, it can immediately preoccupy the individual – positively and constructively.

The socializing aspects of woodworking

Finally, and probably unsurprisingly, woodworking can serve as a socializing tool. It doesn’t need to be a component of activity-based group therapy, although NCBI finds that it can also help tremendously. 

It can simply be a hobby through which one can socialize, make friends with shared interests, discuss the intricacies of woodworking, and follow up on each other’s progress.

That is what WebMD dubs “social, recreational therapy.” Even outside of professional help contexts, such therapy can greatly bolster mental health. It satisfies the individual, building confidence and instilling productive habits. 

kids in a woodworking class

It enriches their identity, improving their sense of self and self-image. And finally, it opens up the option for socialization – once it has made the conditions ripe for it.

Parting words

To summarize, the mental health benefits of woodworking cannot be understated. As a hobby, it activates the mind and body alike and offers a creative outlet to express oneself. 

It also cements a productive habit that can improve self-esteem and facilitates socialization. And as science confirms, these 4 are highly effective therapeutic qualities, and woodworking can offer them all neatly. 

While no therapeutic activity can or should replace professional help, where needed, many can uplift the individual or safeguard against declining mental health. 

If anything, that more and more professionals incorporate such activities into their therapy programs should serve as a testament to how beneficial woodworking can be for one’s mental health.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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