Health and Wellness

How arts and crafts can help to keep the mind active during the coronavirus lockdown


Anxious thoughts can be more difficult to escape in sustained isolation, such as the widespread lockdown measures 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 latest figures from Johns Hopkins University. 

The scale of pandemic and its impact on billions of people, in limiting physical contact with others, has meant that 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 as it requires focused attention and forces us to be completely immersed in the moment.

"We've all experienced that phenomenon when we completely lose track of time and our awareness of what's going on around us diminishes," she told CNBC. 

This is what is known as "flow," Carey Levisay said, a term popularized by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1970s. 

Being engrossed in a creative project temporarily allows us to stop worrying about the future or dwell on the past. 

Creating something for ourselves and others also helps our sense of self-efficacy, or the belief in our own abilities, Carey Levisay said. 

Using time purposefully has also been linked to lower depressive symptoms, she added. 

"The rewarding experience of creating, sharing, and using our time well all stimulate the reward centers in the brain to release 'feel good' neurotransmitters (dopamine) and our endogenous opioids (endorphins)," she said. 

Crafting can also keep the brain effectively stimulated because, in many cases, it combines the learning and perfecting of new skills with those that have already been mastered, Carey Levisay explained. 

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 is also unique to other cognitive enhancing programs, such as the memory enhancement present with computer games, because it is a blend of "intellectually stimulating" and "rewarding/relaxing" activity. 

Online classes 

Most in-person arts and crafts classes have been cancelled as a result of lockdown measures, requiring the closure of many non-essential businesses in order to limit the further spread of the virus. 

New York-based school The Art Studio is hosting online classes for adults, teens and children, as well as offering online art parties for children's birthdays.

Adult online classes include oil and watercolor painting for beginners, as well as "fear-free drawing 101."

U.K.-based business Sew Confident is holding "Virtual Sewcials," in addition to online classes teaching people how to make their own dress or jumpsuit via Zoom. 

Marvel illustrator Will Sliney is also giving live classes on YouTube to teach children how to draw comic book characters.