Anxious thoughts can be harder to escape in prolonged isolation, such as widespread lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, but arts and crafts have been shown to help distract from these feelings.
The coronavirus has so far infected more than 1.9 million people worldwide, with 119,686 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.
The scale of the pandemic and its impact on billions of people, limiting physical contact with others, means many are looking for ways to distract themselves while stuck inside their own homes.
Clinical neuropsychologist Katie Carey Levisay, who runs a private practice in Denver, Colorado, explained that crafting can help because it requires close attention and forces us to be completely immersed in the moment.
“We’ve all experienced this phenomenon when we completely lose track of time and our awareness of what’s going on around us diminishes,” she told CNBC.
It’s called “flow,” said Carey Levisay, a term popularized by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1970s.
Being absorbed in a creative project allows us to temporarily stop worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.
Creating something for ourselves and others also helps our sense of self-efficacy, or belief in our own abilities, Carey Levisay said.
Purposeful use of time has also been linked to a decrease in depressive symptoms, she added.
“The rewarding experience of creating, sharing, and using our time wisely stimulates the brain’s reward centers to release ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters (dopamine) and our endogenous opioids (endorphins)”, a- she declared.
Crafting can also effectively stimulate the brain because, in many cases, it combines learning and honing new skills with those that have already been mastered, explained Carey Levisay.
These activities also use many different parts of the brain or require “whole brain recruitment”. For example, quilting requires visuospatial processing, which is the ability to perceive, analyze, and transform images, while knitting requires working memory and math.
She said it’s also unique to other cognitive enhancement programs, such as memory enhancement present with computer games, because it’s a blend of “intellectually stimulating” and “gratifying/relaxing”.
Most in-person arts and crafts classes have been canceled due to lockdown measures, necessitating the closure of many non-essential businesses to limit the spread of the virus.
New York-based school The Art Studio hosts online classes for adults, teens, and kids, as well as online art parties for kids’ birthdays.
Online courses for adults include oil and watercolor painting for beginners, as well as “drawing without fear 101”.
British firm Sew Confident is hosting “virtual Sewcials”, in addition to online courses teaching people how to create their own dress or jumpsuit via Zoom.
Marvel illustrator Will Sliney also gives live lessons on YouTube to teach kids how to draw comic book characters.