’Tis the season for pumpkin carving—and it’s not just for kids! What’s more stress-relieving—or “adult”—than focusing on a project that’s detail-oriented, absorbing, and allows you to be creative?
Here are just some of the ways pumpkin carving can help relieve your stress this autumn:
- It allows you to work with your hands and get out of your head.
- It brings out your inner artist with a winning combo of creativity and concentration.
- It’s natural—cutting into a fruit like a pumpkin (yes, pumpkins are technically fruits) and digging out the seeds and innards is therapeutic in the same way that gardening is.
- It’s something you can enjoy with the whole family or on your own for two different kinds of stress management.
- The process is satisfying and the result is rewarding—an activity that can brighten both your spirits and your porch.
Pick Your Pumpkin
While you can make do with almost any pumpkin, your selection can make a difference in your final product. Try these tips to pick a good one:
1. Buy local.
In addition to supporting a local farmer, the upside of buying a pumpkin that was grown near you means it wasn’t transported on a bumpy ride to reach your local grocer. Long truck transports can lead to pumpkin bang-ups, resulting in nicks, scratches, and dents in the carving surface.
2. Think smooth.
Soft spots on a pumpkin indicate rotting and might mean its best days are already behind it. Look out for blemishes or gouges, which can invite in pests and expedite the decaying process. Try to pick a pumpkin with a relatively smooth surface to work on.
3. Check stability.
To become a jack-o-lantern, your pumpkin needs a candle and flame, which can be a fire hazard if not installed properly. Make sure that your chosen pumpkin has a stable base that will support its weight and make it harder to knock over.
Gather Your Tools
Most of the tools of the pumpkin carving trade can be found in your kitchen, such as:
- cookie cutters: to use as stencils for tracing patterns
- ice cream scoop: to dig out the pumpkin’s “innards”
- serrated knife: to chisel your design to life
Choose Your Pattern
Although carving the traditional triangle eyes and nose and a jagged mouth can reduce stress just as well as a more elaborate design can, you may find that summoning your muse helps dissolve your tension all the more.
In addition to using cookie cutters for patterns, many drugstores and art shops carry stencil designs and pumpkin carving tool kits for a higher degree of customization. These stencils allow even those with little natural artistic ability to create a virtual masterpiece.