Why Working with Your Hands Makes You Happier
September 22, 2021
Office work is not for everyone. After all, we’re physical creatures: arms, legs, hands, fingers, feet, toes, with energy to expel. And for most of humankind’s existence, our labors were inherently physical. Because of that, vanity isn’t the only reason you see your neighbors exercising and your local gyms packed — it’s also about sanity. We’re compelled by our ingrained need to move.
Imagine, though, a day-to-day routine of healthy movement — one that keeps you physically and mentally satisfied — that doesn’t involve any set “exercise time.” That kind of life is readily available through a career in the skilled crafts.
Working with your hands for a living has all kinds of benefits, one of which is you might simply become happier. This isn’t just anecdotal, it’s scientific.
“Doing manual tasks releases serotonin and endorphins and reduce your levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone,’” a piece in Exploring Your Mind states. “Manual tasks can also improve your neuroplasticity by creating new pathways between neurons. That will help you keep your brain young and healthy for longer.”
How exactly does this play out in a skilled crafts career? Let’s look at a few popular jobs.
Carpenters fashion wood, plastic, fiberglass and drywall into doors, cabinets, walls and numerous other building blocks of everyday living. It’s an extremely useful profession — the things carpenters build are always needed — and it’s consistently one of the most in-demand skilled crafts.
This job is for those who like tinkering. Electricians install and maintain the electrical and power systems of our homes, businesses, and sundry machines. Electrical wiring is everywhere, and an electrician’s diverse jobsites mean their work is quite multifaceted. If you’ve got good manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination and a love for robotics, an electrician career could be a good fit.
Among the most noticeable people at any construction site, heavy equipment operators take the helm behind excavators, bulldozers, cranes, dump trucks and so on. These machines wield major power, but they require a lot of finesse to operate. It’s an ideal job for folks with superb fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
There’s a lot more to this job than getting under the kitchen sink. Indeed, plumbers utilize a broad skill set (blueprint reading, mathematics, mechanical drawing, welding) to do work on diverse water systems. And since this job can’t be outsourced elsewhere — you must be licensed to be hired — there’s real job security there.
A way to feel better
In a piece for the Guardian, journalist Oliver Burkeman recaps Matthew Crawford’s book, “The Case For Working With Your Hands: Or Why Office Work Is Bad For Us And Fixing Things Feels Good.” (Crawford’s an interesting guy — he has a political philosophy doctorate, worked at a thinktank for years, and left it all behind to run a motorbike repair shop.) Burkeman summarizes Crawford’s ethos this way: “Manual competence makes you feel better, and behave better. It gives you a sense of autonomy, a feeling of responsibility for your work and for the material world, and ultimately makes for better citizens.”
Burkeman adds, “making and fixing things instils both a sense of power over what you can control and honesty about what you can’t.” One of things you can control is your career. A job in the skilled crafts brings genuine job satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment that can only come from really using your hands for a living. To learn about the many types of skilled crafts jobs out there, visit our handy careers overview site.