It is believed that William Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” during an endemic in 1564 and Sir Isaac Newton did his best work while he was quarantined at home during the plague. The idea of inspiration during a time of uncertainty is not a new phenomenon.
Whenever we think of creativity, the first thing that comes to our mind is a paintbrush or a music note. We think of art; painting, music, the dance that we look at in the museums, concerts, galleries, etc. However, that is not all that creativity entails. According to the cognitive scientist, Margaret Boden, such work would be termed as “historical creativity”, that is, the creation of something new and surprising to the world.
However, there is another type of creativity that is psychological. This creativity is the capacity of an individual to create something valuable and surprising to themselves. During this isolation or quarantine period, many of us have experienced this “psychological creativity”, regardless of the quality of the product. In this way, we have been able to tap into the creativity inside us all that we were probably unaware of.
It’s almost been 4-5 months since the novel Corona Virus or COVID-19, has spread across the world putting all our lives at a standstill. Since then, people have designed and devised ventilators, sanitisers, soaps, masks in surplus. There are new ways of dealing with this virus and maintaining safety. The scientists, doctors, public policymakers, company heads, teachers are all trying to find ways to make things work as we practice social distancing. This is creativity and invention. Necessity is the mother of invention, as we have all heard many times before, the expression is very appropriately overt right now. We as humans tend to prefer structure and routine to maintain a sort of regularity and development in life. The virus has pushed us to change our ways, and perhaps create new routines and structures that include more time with family and with oneself.
Way before our lives were paused- except those of the essential workers- the world was fast-paced. Work and money-making had been the primary goals all over the world for the past few decades, so much so that many of us had lost the sense of ‘true living’. That is why many people see this pandemic as a means to stop the hassle and take a moment to connect with their inner selves. This is where creativity comes in. However, it is also important to acknowledge that creativity during such times may be a luxury that is not available to all.
During this time people have found creative spaces in painting, dancing, singing, baking, learning new instruments, learning calligraphy, and much more. We are indulging in many activities because there are fewer distractions and an increase in “free-time” to do things that we were too busy to do before. People have come together in the balconies of Italy to sing or have come together, across the world, to make TikTok challenges. Have we ever wondered why everyone is so creative while the world is dealing with a pandemic, inappropriately so as some may think? Well, research done in 2016 says that engaging in a creative activity can lead to a positive state of mind. Dealing with the pandemic does not only mean taking care of physical health but also the mental health of yourself and your loved ones. As we acknowledge the heightened atrocities of the world, it’s equally important to look out for the silver linings for our sanity and our mental well-being.
Staying at home in isolation means countless and aimless hours of sitting, and is accompanied by two things: constraints/restrictions and boredom.
According to an article at Harvard, while we tend to believe that constraints restrict creativity, it has an opposing effect. In situations where there are no constraints, people follow what psychologists call the “path of least resistance” rather than investing in developing new ideas. However, constraints force us to rethink and look for new solutions for our problems. For example, using technology as a means to connect with our friends, even our neighbours.
According to a study, there are different levels of boredom that can be mapped on the axis of how negatively we feel and how motivated we are to do something about it. In level three (searching) and four (reactant), people are highly aroused to alleviate the feeling of boredom. It’s almost like an itch that you want to get rid of. You require stimulation, so you start searching for it and that inspires creativity. Another thing staying inside in the confinements of our homes can bring to us is a lot of negative feelings, stress, anxiety, and even depression. Not everyone can easily navigate through these major lifestyle changes. Creativity helps us feel better. It can be anything- painting, cooking, singing, dancing, knitting, playing- almost anything that anyone can do. It’s a matter of expressing ourselves and benefit from it with a positive state of mind.
Some of the other advantages of being creative during this pandemic can be:
The part of the brain that regulates stress response and emotions are the limbic system and the amygdala prepares us for fight or flight response. Both these centres are bound to be stimulated in this period leading to feelings of fear, anxiety, sadness. But the important thing is to slow things down. To get into the “flow” of things. A state where you’re completely absorbed into something. Indulging in creative activities can provide this flow.
It kills time. An average person has about 60,000 thoughts in a day and during this time, negative thoughts can be overpowering. A creative act can help focus the mind and it has also been compared to meditation as it helps in calming the brain. Even just gardening or cleaning the corners of your house can be very calming.
Creativity allows us the time to go deeper in ourselves to our core and results in human reflection. It helps to bring out our inner feelings and desires and turn them into commodities and products.
Any creative act, whether it is artistic or not, successful or not, will lead to a flood of dopamine, the feel-good chemical, in your brain and that will lead to a sense of happiness, accomplishment and confidence.
So, pick up the one thing that interests you, or inspires and motivates you. The one thing that you could never find the time to do or the one thing that you have always made excuses for. Challenge yourself. But don’t push yourself too hard. Don’t just be artistic but be creative. Create ideas, things, solutions, structures, ways that surprise you and make you happy. Try to indulge once a day. Experience that rush of dopamine that we all need it. When we emerge from this pandemic, we will be equipped with new ways of doing things to deal with the new normal and that will be our silver lining