After being on autopilot for so long, many of us will now find ourselves at a loss- with more time on our hands than we know what to do with. For me personally, I have found this is a wonderful opportunity to get creative. My paintbrushes have never seen so much action, my fingers are blistered from my crochet hook, and my notebook is slowly filling up with ideas and notes and scribbles. Judging by my social media feeds, I’m not the only one.
Browsing through Instagram the other day, I stumbled upon an initiative called Distraction Tactics that was set up by Dan Smith from the band Bastille. It is an online film club, exploring some of the best films from around the globe and then discussing it with other movie fans on Instagram. Musicians around the world are coming together in support of WHO for the #togetherathome campaign; performing live ‘concerts’ from their homes for fans to tune in to whilst on lockdown. Dubai Opera House is running a competition for singers and musicians to record themselves playing an instrument, singing a song, or performing comedy, for the chance to win an opening slot on the Opera House stage later this year. What a wonderful array of innovative minds using creativity to come together in a time of uncertainty and anxiety.
I took part in a (virtual) meditation class the other day where the focus was on tapping into your inner child. The idea was to remind yourself of all the things we lose sight of as we grow older, and to rediscover the traits that you held as a child which you may neglect now. For me, the main thing I kept going back to was my relentless imagination. My brothers still tease me to this day of the games I used to play on my own, with the simple aid of a twig or a fork. My imagination was wild enough for that to be all I needed to create kingdoms and characters and stories in my mind. It was even wild enough for me to conjure up my very own imaginary husband, George (may he rest in peace).
Imagination and creativity is encouraged in children; it provides an opportunity to try out new ideas, as well as discovering new ways of thinking and problem solving. We applaud children’s creative learning, acknowledging and celebrating their uniqueness and diversity. Because, ultimately, creativity is a form of self-expression of feelings, experiences, memories, and imagination.
Creativity is the way I share my soul with the worldBrene Brown
We should never let our creative juices stop flowing, but sometimes restrictions in our lives makes it inevitable. Working a 9-5 job, looking after children, balancing a busy social life: life just gets in the way. That’s why it is so important to grab whatever time we can to let our juices flow again. Why, though, is it important to tap in to that inner Picasso, or Dahl, or Mozart? Whatever creativity looks like to you- and it does look different to everyone- it’s vital that we exercise the right side of our brain as much as we can. Here’s why…
Engaging in creative projects actually has a similar effect on your brain to meditation. Whether it’s reading, writing, crocheting, painting, singing or listening to music- it helps you decompress. In fact, even if you’re not doing the activity yourself but are simply in the presence of creativity- such as admiring a piece of art in a museum or listening to an audio book- it can still do wonders for your frame of mind. Did you know that the average person has 60,000 thoughts in one day? Partaking in a crafty project, or even simply doing something simple using your hands such as gardening, focuses your mind and releases dopamine- a natural anti-depressant. So next time you’re feeling stressed or are struggling to shush down that busy mind of yours: get drawing, get writing, have a go at knitting or simply listen to some music and watch those thoughts untangle and quiet themselves.
As well as reducing depression and loneliness, studies show that creativity can help those with dementia by allowing them to tap back into their personality and sharpen their senses. Art therapy is a common method used for patients suffering with dementia, as it enhances brain function and social interaction. It is even believed that art can trigger buried memories and emotions, allowing these patients to express themselves where they would normally struggle.
Through art and music and creativity, we connect with other people. There’s a real sense of community through being creative, as we’ve seen from the response to the worldwide lockdown surrounding Coronavirus. Millions of people have forged connections through the magic of getting creative and crafty, and we’ve had to use our imaginations more than ever with the limitations and restrictions we might have due to being confined to our homes. Whether it’s through exchanging and discussing ideas, providing feedback, or simply creating together, the sense of connection is deeply rewarding.
When we allow ourselves to ‘create’, we give ourselves permission to take risks, try new things, think outside the box, and express how we’re truly feeling through our chosen medium, with no judgement. When we create for the sheer joy of it, there is no right or wrong.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve started a new painting or begun a macramé project, I am totally present in that moment. I am focused on the task at hand and get lost in my own creative little bubble. There’s no stress about the past or worry over the future. Being present is something I’ve struggled with and recently I have learned how important it really is. As a society, we are always so busy, and constantly planning what is next or assessing what has already happened. This means we don’t often take the time to fully focus on what’s happening in the here and now and, most importantly, enjoy it. Life is to be lived, not planned or regretted, so to live it we must practise presence! Dive into a painting or start doodling some sketches and you’ll realise getting creative is a form of mindfulness which will enable you to practise being present.
So there you have it! There is an abundance of positive outcomes from getting creative, and whilst we now all have the opportunity to slow down and take a breath, why not dig out the paint brushes or your old keyboard? Get creative, stay safe, and stay smiling!
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.Maya Angelou