5 ways woodworking might help with PTSD recovery

By Robert Johnson

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause many functional problems. People might lose their jobs, partners, or families. Some use drugs to self-medicate, but the bad feelings and strange behaviors can’t be cured by psychoactive substances. However with the help of the right therapy, engrained habits can change.

For someone suffering from PTSD, changing engrained habits can sound about as easy as  landing a rocket onto the Moon. Nevertheless,  the first giant leap is relatively simple: to find something that will occupy the overactive mind. Simple routine change can make life easier, and finding a hobby or any type of occupation will help you to relax.

In my experience, woodworking has proved an interesting and therapeutic way to direct the brain. These are the five reasons I think woodworking is good for wellbeing.

1/ You get your concentration back

Making a frame or a new piece for your kitchen is something that needs your full attention. Think about it like this: you need to consider proportions, ways to cut the wood, how to use the machines, how to make a final product look as it should, finishing, painting etc. While drawing a sketch of a wood product and processing the wood, your attention is 100% there. It is hard to keep it there all the time, but continuing to try over and over is something that will definitely improve your concentration, and as a consequence your overall wellbeing.

2/ You create meaning 

Imagine you make one piece of wood; a pen holder for instance. You can use it or give it as a present to someone you love. This is something that gives real meaning to the piece, to the person who made it and to the person who receives it.. People doing woodworking are giving a new meaning to a piece of wood, to themselves and to the person that will use that piece.

3/ You follow the cycle and enjoy every part of it

Up and down, back and forth. Rules always follow; it is the same here. The process of woodworking will start with an unshaped piece, the move to planning, choosing adequate equipment, the work itself and finishing. Every part is important in the process and it should be followed by a dedication and interaction. While interacting, we should try to enjoy it. Try to see a splinter as wood decoration for your floor. Every splinter and every shaving helps your piece to shape and transform to its purpose.


4/ You remove a rough edge on a piece (and in your life)

It takes dedication to remove the rough edge on a wooden piece and make it smooth. How many edges need to be removed in order to make a wooden cup? Good question, but the answer is always: we remove as many edges as we need to make a perfect cup. The same is in life. Rough edges of anger, bad feelings, situations, people, and traumas need to be softened. Imagine you want to make your life into that wooden cup. Make every removed edge on your piece a small removal of your inner edges.

5/ You learn how to lose. You learn how to win.

In a woodshop, you are sometimes a winner and sometimes a loser; as you are in life. But, in your small wood world, you are dealing with it alone. No one can know that you won, nor lost. This is something that can help you accept that there are ups and downs all the time and that we need to move on, deal with every new down and grow with every new up. For PTSD, accepting the fact that we were not able to make the piece we wished will make us feel more relieved about the fact that we are not able to cope with the trauma in the way we wished. But we can try, and try again, realizing that sometimes the process is more important and rewarding than the product.

About the author

Robert is a woodworking enthusiast whose passion for power tools is expressed through writing. He is the founder, owner, and main author of the Sawinery[dot]net website, a blog site dedicated to his personal reviews of different types and specific models of saws. Through the years, his interest in woodworking expanded beyond tools, which started his quest to write about woodworking projects and fascinating stories of woodworkers as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top