Monday, January 07, 2019

Does manual labor boost happiness?

A friend sent a link to an article describing the effects of manual agency on the chemistry of the brain.  The title of the piece "Does Manual Labor Boost Happiness" may be misleading. "Manual labor" is thought to be that thing that those in search of ease try their damnedest to avoid. Digging ditches might come to mind. And yet to feel fully human requires the display of manual agency. The article mentions Kelly Lambert, a researcher I've mentioned many times before in this blog, and perhaps it will help readers to understand that I really do know what I'm talking about.

  • Working with your hands affects brain chemistry in a positive way. 
  • Automation technologies can strip away a sense of agency and meaning in our lives. 
  • Using your hands connects you with your environment in a way that most technologies cannot.

The article also mentions Matthew Crawford, about whom I've written many times before and who used a 2006 quote from this blog as the launch of chapter one of his best selling book, "Shop Class as Soulcraft. "

Of course, how we feel as human beings and how we feel about ourselves as human beings are only part sof what's related to the agency of the hands.

  • We also are smarter when the hands are engaged. 
  • We are more truthful and responsive to the needs of others. 
  • We are less egotistical, more compassionate, and loving, when the hands are engaged. 

The search for happiness may not require us to become manual laborers and dig ditches for a change. We can serve in a multitude of other intelligent ways. Engaging the hands as a means to restore body and soul needs not lower us on a social scale. Even doing the basic chores of life can have restorative effects.

Make, fix and create... encourage others to learn and love lifewise.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Doug and followers,
    This post on manual agency got me thinking. I just finished digging ditches for an irrigation system in my orchard/garden. I can tell you that a great amount of confidence in my competence was derived from this project, including the ditch digging. The past few days I have moved about 10 yards of wood chips (mulch), one wheelbarrow at a time, and spread it over the orchard floor. Same effect. I would say, based on experience, that the value of manual labor is akin to wisdom of the hands when it comes to building confidence and self reliance. In pondering all this I recalled my childhood when, on occasion, I would hear my father and friends comment about me, "well, he knows how to work" or "he's not afraid to work." I'm certain that this feedback from people I looked up to has been internalized and therefore has a strong influence on my contention that manual labor, in and of itself, can be a character reinforcer. I would encourage all adults to speak likewise within earshot of youngsters, giving them posititive self knowledge.