Can Quilting Really Promote Good Health?
By Penny Halgren

May 2005 – La Mesa, California – Around the world, there is an increasing awareness of the health benefits derived from participating in various forms of art.

In hospitals across the US, doctors, nurses and patients are discovering that participation in the arts – including quilting, dancing, listening to music, and working with beads, clay and collages – is beneficial to the healing process, and in staying healthy. As a matter of fact, last year more than 300 health and arts professionals gathered in Alexandria, Virginia for the 13th annual conference of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare (SAH). This group is slated to meet in Alberta, Canada in June 2005, and will combine its conference with Partners in Healthcare.

Stories abound of patients suffering from cancer, ALS, Diabetes and stress-related diseases, whose recovery has benefited tremendously from their participation in various forms of art. Once considered on the fringe of healthcare, the arts are being used by a growing number of healthcare institutions around the globe. Here in the US, the University of Washington Medical Center uses art in its entrance to create a friendly, welcoming environment and reduce the stress of actually walking in to their hospital. Quilts, paintings, sculpture and musicians scattered throughout the hospital continue the theme of relaxation and reflection through art.

Frequently patients are given directions to offices or labs with references to sculptures or the Healing Garden. Nurses are known for taking a piano break, and providing soothing live music in the corridors. Artists work with patients teaching them new art skills so the patients can express themselves creatively during their stay in the hospital.

And what’s the Quilting Connection?

The Society for the Arts in Healthcare sponsors the Healing Gardens Quilt Show, a collection of 27 quilts made by Northern Virginia Quilters. These quilts are currently on tour and available for members to display in their healthcare facility. Each quilt depicts a plant currently under study or being used as a potential source of cancer-fighting drugs. This display uses art to educate people about a healthcare issue.

While men and women find joy in making “happy” quilts – baby quilts, wedding quilts, graduation or friendship quilts – many find relief in making quilts that depict life’s tragedies such as divorce and death. A case in point is the AIDS quilt project which now contains more than 44,000 quilt panels; each panel memorializes the life of a person who died of AIDS.

And, if quilts and making quilts can be helpful in healing, won’t it be helpful in preventing illness?

It must! Advice from healthcare professionals around the world includes engaging in constructive, creative activities as well as contemplative activities. Quilting is all of that. During the planning and construction of a quilt, all of your contemplative and creative talents are tapped into. As a matter of fact, many quilters report that they get completely “lost” in their quilts time and time again, thereby providing relief from life’s stresses and promoting good health.

So, the next time your spouse or other family member asks you about your quiltmaking activities, just say “I’m doing it for my health!”

© 2005, Penny Halgren. Penny is a quilter of more than 24 years who hosts, Inspiration and Education for Beginning Quilters, and seeks to interest new quilters and provide them with the resources necessary to have a positive learning experience.

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