When the first lockdown began in March, my son developed a persistent cough. He was anxious and when he couldn’t sleep he wrote. Inspired by author Elizabeth Gilbert, whose soothing Instagram I would fall back on in ungodly hours, and reassured by her pragmatic take on creative endeavors, I poured my anxiety onto the page and lost myself in my story.
It turned out that my son’s cough was not Covid-19, but writing about it helped me control my fears about the pandemic and gave me direction. Now is the New Year and the closure, in one form or another, remains a reality while most of us wait for the vaccine. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but until we get there, I have a strong feeling that doing something might help.
At the beginning of the pandemic we were excited; It was scary, but it was novel, and many of us even enjoyed the slower pace of locked-in life (despite the broader traumas) and the opportunity to work from home. Now that it was almost a year ago, we are more likely to be fatigued and listless, struggling with financial worries and whatever else comes our way.
In these circumstances, embarking on a new creative hobby could bring the tangible sense of accomplishment we seek, injecting much-needed novelty into what might otherwise be a gloomy January.
Psychotherapist Josh Hogan He began to draw landscapes in the first confinement. “It gives me a sense of peace and calm,” he says. “When I focus on that one activity, I don’t worry about things that may happen in the future; It brings me back to the present moment because I have to pay attention to what I am doing.
“There is a sense of accomplishment and I can feel that I have really said something,” he says. “I have used art and creativity all my life to express myself and make sense of the confusing vagaries of life. But it wasn’t until I started my counseling training that I realized that art could be used as a powerful therapeutic tool. Expressing yourself and giving meaning to life are two important processes in therapy. When I started training I realized that I had been doing a lot of therapeutic things without knowing it. “
Hogan also recommends creative activities for clients overwhelmed by anxiety. Art is widely recognized as a useful way to boost well-being in many different ways: to aid communication, to alleviate depression, to uncover hidden meanings and conflicts, but it doesn’t have to be a huge cathartic expression of inner turmoil to heal. . Benefits Even a small amount of creativity is good for us.
As a study led by Dr Daisy Fancourt, UCL Principal Investigator for BBC Arts, found out, getting acquainted with something new and creative is good for our mental health, regardless of skill level. The research, conducted between March and May 2018 among a sample of 47,924 respondents across the UK, found that doing something creative can help people see problems from a new perspective.
“While activities like creative writing can help you vent your emotions, other things like knitting or crafting can give us some space and a safe haven away from our stress, which could provide an opportunity to think hard and find solutions.” says Fancourt.
Doing something new is also good for our confidence. “People can be surprised at what they achieve and this can extend to other aspects of their lives,” says Fancourt. “A great example is the Nameless chorus, which is a chorus of people affected by homelessness: 70-80% of the people who participate go on to volunteer or find housing and leave the streets ”. While real-life choirs might be banned for now, that shouldn’t stop us flexing our vocal cords in one of the many online groups that have emerged in the pandemic.
Busyness with your sketch pad or journal can protect us in many ways. According to a study that examined the links between art and health, a cost-benefit analysis showed a 37% drop in GP consultation rates and a 27% reduction in hospital admissions when patients participated in creative activities. Other studies have found similar results. For example, when people were asked to write about trauma for 15 minutes a day, it resulted in fewer subsequent visits to the doctor, compared to a control group.
It is not clear why we see these responses, although when we are really in our creative “flow” many of us fall into a state similar to deep meditation. Hours pass in minutes and, for once, we are free from that annoying and critical inner voice. This state of flow can even cause changes in our body, as shown by a 2010 Swedish study of classical pianists, which found that the heart rate slows down, the breath deepens, and, quite marvelously, the smile muscles tighten. They activate when the musicians really get into their groove. .
But what about sharing our creation with others? Can this make our creative effort more powerful?
“When shared, parts of us that were once invisible, hidden, obscured, become known”, is like the musician and writer Jeff leisawitz, he explains, writing on his blog Tiny Buddha. “There are seven billion people running around this planet. It’s easy to feel lost, invisible, and inconsequential. It is a big world. So creativity helps us to be seen. Maybe you’ll get your 15 minutes and become popular with the masses. Most likely it will be with your extended band or just a few close people. And sometimes your creation will be just for you. Even if no one else checks your work, it will help you see yourself. Become more known for yourself. “
Locked in, many of us wrote more than ever, coloring book sales skyrocketed, and we saw a number of creative courses emerge online as artists and other creators shared their skills to help us stay sane. Isolation Art School, created by Keith Tyson, who won the Turner Prize in 2002, offered free video tutorials, which you can still find on his Instagram page, with portrait painting demos from Jonathan Yeo, and Tim Noble showing you how to build your own. shadow portrait. garbage and household items, and much more.
But what if your trash shadow portrait is, well, trash? If we don’t have an artistic bone in our body, can creativity still help our mental health?
Tyson’s own series of lessons, Painting for Absolute Beginners, challenges the idea that there are artistic people and non-artistic people. “I think the most important thing you can learn from this is that there are no wrong answers. There is no way you can make a mistake, ”he says to reassure him.
Gilbert is equally inclusive. “Creative life does not mean that you have to become a poet who lives on top of a mountain in Greece, or that you have to perform at Carnegie Hall or win a Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival,” he says in Great magic, his self-help book for creatives (although if that’s your dream, go for it). “Creativity is simply a way to live a fuller and fuller life.”
It is similar to unearthing a buried treasure, which each one of us has deep within us; we just need the courage to seek it. And what better time than now?
Artistic expression: how to bring creativity into your life
1. You may not experience the “flow” if you are constantly interrupted, so turn off your phone and laptop.
2. Do something you enjoy. Whether you are drawing, writing, or designing, you are likely to achieve more “flow” if you do it for yourself rather than for an extrinsic reward, such as money or applause.
3. Don’t expect inspiration or a great epiphany. Set aside an hour a day for creativity and just show up.
Four. Try taking an online course, such as the free Isolation Art School classes or one of the online courses from Writers headquarters, which promises to help you “Stop fucking around and start writing.”
5. Suspend the trial. If you think your creation isn’t good enough, take a break and move on. As Gilbert says in his podcast for Big Magic: “The only thing that will get you back to work on the second day is if you forgive yourself for how bad your job was on the first day.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism