Exploring a New Creative Activity
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to re-evaluate various parts of our lives, from what we enjoy doing in our spare time, through our working habits, to how much time we get to spend with our loved ones. If there’s one aspect of lockdown that has benefited us, it’s that it has allowed us to know ourselves better and pursue new creative activities accordingly. As we hope to leave the pandemic behind, how can we keep up these new creative activities THAT are so essential to our Emotional Wellbeing?
Born into a vegetarian family in Punjab, I grew up in a household where time was marked by meals. For me, cooking has always been a vital part of a good and whole life. No wonder then, that as the pandemic started unfolding, I found myself gravitating towards cooking for pleasure, coming up with new ideas for meals and recipes, and using my creativity to combine various spices, textures, and scents.
In these uncertain times, cooking as a creative pastime has brought me a tangible sense of pride and achievement. I felt like I had at least one thing that was within my control. I felt like I could enter a flow state or an almost meditative mindset. Despite the physical sense of tiredness that would normally follow after an intense cooking session, I would feel well-rested. It was like an escape from all the worries that surrounded me.
After doing some more research about the topic, I realized that this is a common experience for many. Dr. Cathay Malchiodi cites multiple studies that confirm that being creative “can increase positive emotions, lessen depressive symptoms, reduce stress, decrease anxiety, and even improve immune system functioning”. One study from 2016 suggests that “spending time on creative goals during a day is associated with higher activated positive affect (PA) on that day.” This is good news for all of those who suffer from emotional difficulties.
My intuition is that creativity allows us to try (and make mistakes) in a sphere that is non-competitive and open to beginners. At work, we are always competing against others. Even if we get to do creative work, the fear of failure is still present. This induces a stressful response. A creative pursuit done at home, in our own time and at our own pace, however, allows us not only to forget about the rat race, but to consciously move beyond it. It allows us to simply enjoy the act of doing, without any underlying beliefs about how it should be done. Personally, my recipes are not always brilliant — I am not a Michelin-trained chef, after all — and that is okay. It is okay for me to make mistakes and learn from them.
The guilt that we often feel when we are not productive has no place when we take the time to pursue creative pastimes. Deep rest is the goal here. I encourage everyone to try and find something they enjoy doing, and then commit to it. Commit to the journey, but do not worry about reaching a particular destination. The skill will come with time and practice, but the benefits to your Emotional Wellbeing will no doubt be felt from your very first attempt.