Stay safe; stay creative

Creativity Hacks to Improve Your Mental wellness

You’ve been indoors for a couple of weeks, since the compulsory ‘stay home’ directive. The first two weeks were great- you finally got to spend quality time with your family. It felt like a quick break and you honestly couldn’t have been happier. But now you have questions; when will life return to normal? Will it ever be safe again? The questions can come at you fast and if you’re not careful you may find yourself drowning in uncertainty. To avoid this, read on to get few creativity “hacks” that might help focus your mind & keep you busy during this period.

The Science of it

In recent years, researchers have studied and proven the positive effects of creativity on mental health. These effects include elevated moods, anxiety alleviation, better brain function, improved immune health, and disease prevention. When we are being creative, we enter into a state called flow. When in flow, you temporarily forget the “outside world”, your heart rate slows down and your mind is focused and sharp. Aside from the direct benefits of being in flow, repetitive creative motion triggers the reward centers in our brains to release dopamine, the ‘feel good’ chemical. Dopamine acts as a natural anti-depressant, boosting your mood and motivating you to do more.

Creative People

Before we go further, let’s dispel a common myth that only “creative” people can/should create. Yes, there are people with natural talent in creative areas, but this doesn’t exclude everyone else from creativity or creative endeavors. The focus when it comes to creativity and mental health is not on how good the result is, but on the process of getting a result. So, release your inhibitions and unleash your inner Picasso (or Hemmingway or Michelangelo)!

Creativity Mediums

There are many mediums for creative self-expression and below are a few you can easily carve out space for at home:

  1. Words - Think journaling, poetry, flash fiction, etc. This is one of the easiest ways to create, as the only tools required are a pen and paper (or a computer, if you prefer to write digitally). I recently stumbled on a journal from when I was 13 and fresh in boarding school, and it was an utter delight to read what my 13-year-old self-thought about the world. Imagine stumbling on a journal from this period twenty, thirty years from now? A journal allows you to document these unprecedented times from your own perspective.
  2. Pictures - Painting, photography, drawing, coloring…these are all interesting ways to create visual images. Consider making a photo-journal of this period; take one photo a day of anything- portrait, nature, object, food, etc. and store in digital or physical format. You may also find coloring in physical or digital coloring books quite therapeutic.
  3. Décor - Start with decluttering. Decluttering your physical space tends to have a corresponding effect on your mind. Not only that, you run the risk of stumbling upon forgotten keepsakes that take you down memory lane and bring warm feelings along the way. After decluttering, then you can decorate. Decorating could be as simple as repainting a wall, moving furniture around or hanging up something you handcrafted.
  4. Music - Music is one of the most popular mediums of creating. Sometimes just listening to music can alter your mood positively, but you can take it further by learning to sing a song from a genre you typically wouldn’t listen to; do you like classical music? Try learning a rap song. Learning to play an instrument is also a great option, and there are many online tutorials to achieve this. Yet another way to engage with music is, dance. Tip: declare a particular hour in your home as dance hour (a time when everyone drops what they are doing and starts dancing)
  5. Food - This is almost everyone’s favorite. We have to eat anyway, so why not make it interesting? Try out different recipes for your favorite dishes or try entirely new cuisines from different cultures. You can even make it a family activity- this way you have someone on “dishes” duty!
  6. Sharing - Few things are more rewarding than giving and sharing, especially in a time of crisis. If you’re great at some creative activity, say writing for example, you may consider channelling it into a cause for the greater good. Many humanitarian organizations like the United Nations are accepting both in-person and online volunteers to help with the pandemic response. You may also use your social media platform to share your talents with others. Think workout routines, recipes, poetry, craft, and music…whatever it is that you’re good at. Whether it’s done in the form of a tutorial or an uplifting performance, people stand to benefit and so do you.

The bottom line is, the world is charting unmitigated territory and creativity can be the wind that steers you in the right direction and keeps your head above water. Are there other activities that have helped you stay grounded during this period? Share this article with your friends and family in need of a boost. Stay safe!

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Dania Nwizu is a creative entrepreneur based in Lagos, Nigeria. She spends most of her time writing, telling food stories and walking on water.

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