Creativity benefits mental health in times of isolation

Many Boise State students, no matter the major, find creative forms with which to express themselves and find comfort, especially during times of isolation. 

Jillian Kelley, a senior social work major, is currently working on a painting for a friend who is genderfluid. According to Kelley, the individual has been forced to move back home because of the pandemic, where they feel the environment is not safe for them. 

“It’s a set that paints them as their ideal self,” Kelley said. “This painting has been an actualization of a safe space for my friend. Any kind of creativity can be a safe space for people.” 

Kelley thinks that being creative during the new coronavirus outbreak is a way to cope with the many unexpected changes students have been experiencing. 

“With everything that is changing in our world, having a safe space is important and we can make that space by being creative,” Kelley said. 

Being creative does not have to mean creating something for others to see; rather for Kelley, it can mean creating something that sparks happiness, while also being an outlet for one’s inner thoughts and stress. 

For Lauren Caldwell, a junior music education major, creativity comes in the form of music. According to Caldwell, making time for creativity everyday is an important way to explore personal interests and passions, while also benefiting one’s mental health. 

“Being creative everyday gives me a sense of purpose amid all the events that have been cancelled,” Caldwell said. “It helps me to still feel connected to others.” 

Graphic by Sarah Schmid

Connecting with people is something Caldwell has been struggling with personally. She uses music to help express her emotions when she cannot talk about them with other people. 

“It’s crucial to your mental health to find something to keep you busy and productive,” Caldwell said. “It’s so easy to feel down when everything is getting cancelled or you can’t see other people.” 

Listening to music is one simple way Caldwell can feel she is being regularly creative. It helps her to mentally cope, while also being a distraction to what is currently happening in the world. 

For her honors project, Caldwell is focusing on vocal pedagogy and incorporating how singing helps her mental health. She works with a professor to earn credits. Caldwell is dedicating this project to show how music helps calm her social anxiety and how any form of creativity can help with mental health. 

Though music is a form of creativity that can be done individually, for Grace Ward, a senior theatre major, her creative form is based upon collaboration and group effort through theatre performance. 

According to Ward, it has been difficult working independently because she is used to having access to teamwork, but she has found a benefit to solitary work. 

“Working alone helps you process so much more of who you are,” Ward said. “Having to work in isolation allows me to explore the work that I want to make.” 

Now studying theatre at Boise State, Ward was studying theatre in Connecticut in the spring when the pandemic forced students to return home within three days of receiving the notification. Ward went from studying theatre for 16 hours a day to a week of quarantine with nothing to do. 

“That first week was really difficult mentally because I didn’t have a creative outlet,” Ward said. “The wildness inside myself calmed down once I had an outlet again.” 

Many artists and creatives are unemployed due to the pandemic, which has taken a toll on both society and the artists.

“My personal vendetta is this: If you value art and creativity, wear a mask and go vote. Those artists are struggling to find work and your vote will help,” Ward said. 

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