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COVID-19 lockdown is unleashing people's creativity
Armed with today's advanced digital tools and itching to express ourselves, "boredom" is bringing out the best in us.
- While staying at home, many are exploring their creative sides to unprecedented levels, sharing their creations with the world in similarly novel, and sometimes collaborative, ways.
- People are finding amazing ways to create and to share from the safety of their homes using apps designed to promote expression and not simply distract users.
- Creative professionals are also stuck at home, facing unemployment, and a lack of access to their usual creative outlets.
While millions are stuck at home during lockdown, many are also exploring their creative sides to unprecedented levels – and are sharing their creations with the world in similarly novel, and sometimes collaborative, ways.
So what is it about forced isolation that brings out people's creative sides? Apparently, boredom has a lot to do with it, at least according to science.
The inspiration of boredom
Pandemic-related lockdowns and social distancing restrictions have led to millions of people around the world being shut in, isolated and increasingly bored. But might that actually be a good thing?
Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire and author of the books "The Upside of Downtime" and "The Science of Boredom," is researching how boredom can be a creative force.
In fact, being bored during this time is unleashing a veritable global creative renaissance. Of course, for many impacted by the virus, boredom is a luxury. Millions are out of work, including many creative professionals, and others are too busy dealing with working from home or job loss, homeschooling children without an end in sight, or are tragically coping with the virus itself.
However, for many, boredom has become a common theme in this new normal – and that might not be the worst thing. Mann advises her audience to "Harness your boredom by getting bored," explaining that when you really let yourself be bored without distraction, you are forced to let your mind wander and find new ways to occupy itself.
"That means real boredom, which is where you have to let your mind wander," she says. "This is the real key. Daydreaming and mind wandering. Don't turn to the internet or try to scroll your boredom away."
While scrolling away might not fuel creativity, people are finding amazing ways to create and to share from the safety of their homes using apps designed to promote expression and not simply distract users. In one survey from Lightricks, a software company that specializes in mobile tools for creative expression, over 70 percent of respondents said that using a creativity app helped them overcome anxiety and more than 90 percent responded that they use creativity apps to combat boredom.
What are people doing to get creative under quarantine?
Every day people are going deep with amazing art projects and finding ingenious ways to stay occupied. The trend is, in part, inspired by the need to keep kids busy and engaged, but the wave of creativity goes way beyond this motivation.
Instead of shutting down and switching off, people have become creators of content rather than just passive consumers.
- Early on in the pandemic, families and friends found ways to keep busy and have fun with creative TikTok dance videos. This trend has only picked up as the months have wore on, with COVID-19 related hashtags like #quarantine and #happyathome connecting users across the globe.
- Pinterest is another tech platform that is helping people get creative at home. With searches up 60 percent from this time last year and over 30 million new users joining the platform from January to June, DIY and craft projects are some of the most popular pins.
- With public places becoming breeding grounds for coronavirus infection, classes and clubs for art forms like parkour and capoeira have moved to virtual spaces, with different modes of movement.
- New apps are also offering a digital space to be creative and maintain social networks, support others, and maintain mental health. One such app is Quickart. In a press release, the creators of the app explained that the pandemic has "accelerated consumer appetite for powerful, easy-to-use creative tools that empower users to unleash their artistic expression while offering them an escape." With filters like Split Colours (below) and AI-enhanced animation tools, this app is blowing users away and putting the power of advanced editing in the hand of every person – no professional skills required.
@sereiadosuburbio via Instagram
- In one incredible project, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles tweeted a challenge for people to recreate famous works of art at home. This unleashed an amazing display of creativity as people everywhere reached for everyday objects to reimagine masterpieces.
- Using an app called Mudeo, people are recording themselves singing, or playing instruments, and then layering additional tracks on top of themselves to create rich self-accompanied arrangements on the fly.
Creative professionals are getting in on the fun
Creative professionals are also stuck at home, facing unemployment and a lack of access to their usual creative outlets.
With amazing resilience, this sector is rising to the occasion in amazing ways that, thanks to technology, are inspiring millions of people around the world.
- Professional musicians and DJs are playing free-access online concerts and dance parties. Collaborating from their homes in Brooklyn and Paris, for example, one rock school recorded a "family jam" of "With a Little Help From My Friends" by the Beatles, captioned with the words: "Created Under Confinement."
- The #QuarantineFiction campaign encourages authors (and aspiring authors) to write and share their stories, whether it's a memoir or a work of fiction. People can even compose together, and the best stories will be compiled in a book and made accessible all over the world.
- A home mural festival featuring artists from around the world, giving them the opportunity to come together and find a creative outlet together. One of the artists involved in the mural project, Jacoba Niepoort, told This Is Colossal: "Being cooped up has presented an opportunity to come together in new ways, both as coordinators and as artists. To share visuals of the space and time we're standing in now, created in solitude, but with the solidarity and simultaneousness being an important value-factor."
@daviddelamano_ via Instagram
Adapting creativity to suit the strange circumstances has born inspiring fruit with many otherwise disconnected aspiring artists finding connection, community and opportunities to create and distribute their work.
This, in turn, is helping to ease the anxiety, loneliness and boredom of lockdown. Of course, all of this creativity is propelled by the ability to share it with an unlimited audience online.
Locked down and spreading wings
In 1665, the Great Plague raged across Europe, and Isaac Newton was sent home from his post at Cambridge. Confined indefinitely to his home, Newton got creative and invented calculus.
COVID-19 is another pandemic proving the creative force of adversity and boredom to inspire ingenuity and art. With agility and perseverance, people will find new ways to cultivate creativity and express themselves. With fun and jaw-dropping tools available on any phone, people everywhere are using their devices to create content and share it with the world, to inspire and be inspired.
- Creativity increases with formal training and practice, study finds ... ›
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- 6 lessons we can all implement for better mental health - Big Think ›
The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
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Vegans and vegetarians often have nutrient deficiencies and lower BMI, which can increase the risk of fractures.
- The study found that vegans were 43% more likely to suffer fractures than meat eaters.
- Similar results were observed for vegetarians and fish eaters, though to a lesser extent.
- It's possible to be healthy on a vegan diet, though it takes some strategic planning to compensate for the nutrients that a plant-based diet can't easily provide.
Comparison of fracture cases by diet group
Credit: Tong et al.<p>The results showed that vegans were especially vulnerable to hip fractures, suffering 2.3 times more cases than meat-eaters. Vegetarians and pescatarians were also more likely to suffer hip fractures, though to a lesser extent.</p><p>One explanation may be that non-meat eaters consume less calcium and protein. Calcium helps the body build strong bones, particularly before age 30, after which the body begins to lose bone mineral density (though consuming enough calcium through diet or supplement can <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/" target="_blank">help offset losses</a>). Lower bone mineral density means higher risk of fracture.</p><p>Protein seems to help the body absorb calcium, <a href="https://www.bonejoint.net/blog/did-you-know-that-certain-foods-block-calcium-absorption/#:~:text=Historically%2C%20nutritionists%20have%20warned%20that,may%20increase%20intestinal%20calcium%20absorption." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">when consumed in normal levels</a>. The recent study, along with past research, shows that people who don't eat meat tend to have lower levels of both protein and calcium. When the researchers accounted for non-meat eaters who supplemented their diets with calcium and protein, fracture risk decreased, but still remained significant.</p>
Credit: Pixabay<p>Another explanation is body mass index (BMI). Non-meat eaters tend to have a lower BMI, which is associated with higher fracture risk, particularly hip fractures. In the new study, vegans with a low BMI were especially likely to suffer hip fractures. That might be because having more body mass provides a cushioning effect when people fall.</p><p>Still, the study has some limitations. For one, White European women were overrepresented in the sample. The researchers also didn't collect precise data on the type of calcium or protein supplementation, diet quality or causes of fractures.</p><p>Another complicating factor: Producers of vegan products, such as plant-based milk, are increasingly fortifying foods with nutrients like calcium and protein, so modern vegans are potentially at lower risk of deficiency.</p><p>The researchers wrote that their findings "suggest that bone health in vegans requires further research."</p>