Brain Food: Textile Therapy

Mar 12, 2015

For centuries, people have been knitting, crocheting, weaving and quilting...mostly for functionality but more recently, for enjoyment. And now a clinical psychologist in Flagstaff is studying the emotional and physical benefits of handcrafting textiles. Ann Futterman-Collier runs the Well Being Lab at Northern Arizona University.

Clinical psychologist Ann Futterman-Collier is studying the physiological effects of handcrafting textiles. She conducts research at the Well Being Lab at Northern Arizona University
Credit KNAU/Bonnie Stevens

"People basically have a vacation from their problems," she says. "They can forget about what's bothering them, and they get into something in the moment that energizes them, that leads to the repair in mood. That could simply be a distraction," Futterman-Collier adds, "but distraction doesn't also have that excitement component to it as well as the engagement."

She interviewed 60 women about their sources of stress. Then, Futterman-Collier randomly asked some to work with textiles, some to meditate and some to write - asking them to rate their moods during the activities. She also monitored their heart rates and took saliva samples to measure inflammation in their bodies, which can influence disease.

"We just picked women, even though I think this applies equally to men," Futterman-Collier says. "Hormonally, there could be a lot of different things going on in women versus men. And, textile handcraft making was associated with the greatest mood repair, increases in positive, decreases in negative mood. So, people who were given the task to make something actually had less of an inflammatory response in the face of a "stressor".

She says her research shows a definite mind-body connection when working with textiles and that maintaining good health goes far beyond diet: not only should we eat more fiber, Futterman-Collier says we should play with it, as well.