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With pen and paper: How creative routines strengthen the psyche

Home office, video conferences, online tutorials: our working world is increasingly digitally dominated. Not only in times of crisis, but also in normal, demanding everyday life, analogue, creative activities provide mental balance. 

Small gesture, big symbolic effect: One of the many current home office tips is that you should not simply close your laptop after you have finished working, but first shut it down completely. This is the only way to give the system a chance to sort itself out and start fresh again the next morning. What applies to computers applies even more to people: in times of massive digital stress on the one hand and painfully reduced opportunities for regeneration during lockdown on the other, we too must find opportunities to recharge in order to maintain our inner balance despite isolation and monotony.  

Zoom is booming - but so are puzzles, brushes and paper

And a quick gesture is not enough. On the contrary: the more virtual everyday life becomes, the greater the importance of real, physical activities seems to be, which can also take a little more time. This is suggested by figures from the last turbulent pandemic months. The video conferencing service Zoom, for example, reported an 88% increase in sales compared to the previous year 1. At the same time, providers from the analogue world also reported record-breaking results: game publishers increased their sales by a fifth, sales of puzzles increased by 32% worldwide 2, and in an evaluation of internet search queries, terms such as crossword puzzles, drawings and origami landed at the top of the rankings 3. All activities involving pens, brushes and paper have already achieved classic status - Faber-Castell registered an increase of over 300% in downloads of colouring templates and drawing instructions.

Being creative means being active

Whether cooking or colouring: What does handwork - in the literal sense of the word - give us? Is it a distraction, a relief for the stressed brain? Certainly, as anyone who has ever experienced flow while colouring in a mandala knows, that state of suspension in which thoughts flow. But it is more. Manual activities can strengthen us mentally in the long term - especially in situations where even the greatest mental effort cannot solve all the questions. 
"The need for control and self-determination is a basic human need," says German graduate psychologist Stefanie Gütlein from Breisach am Rhein. "For many, the loss of control felt due to the limitations of the Corona crisis is deeply frightening. Our personal options for exerting influence - such as avoiding contact and keeping our distance - are, after all, rather passive. It is all the more helpful to do something that can be brought about ourselves, because through creative work we come back into action." The feeling of being able to (co-)shape situations is generally considered the key to more serenity - in turbulent phases of a pandemic as well as in a less fearful, but often also very challenging everyday life. A new normality, which is now so often spoken of expectantly, should therefore ideally offer enough space for the psychologically so important creative work. 

A must on the timetable: creative me-time

One line drawings encourage concentration. 
Self-efficacy, as the magic word in technical jargon is called, versus heteronomy: In order to be able to regularly experience oneself as an active personality, creative "me-time islands" must be consistently planned and implemented. Many people have noticed in recent months that this is not additional deadline stress - when they experienced the lockdown situation as deceleration despite all limitations and enjoyed pursuing old or new hobbies in peace. Whether it's the relaxing colouring in of an adult colouring book, a varied sketchnotes-style diary or concentration-boosting one line drawing: Since the first lockdown in spring 2020, many home office workers have firmly established such rituals in their daily routine because they no longer want to do without their positive effects.

Better relaxed than perfect

Such self-creations by no means have to be breathtaking works of art - they can also be a painted template. For the even, repetitive colouring of surfaces has just as relaxing an effect as the release from the pressure of having to create extraordinary works. To look at oneself and what one has created sympathetically: Therein lies the art now. "We should say goodbye to the demand to function as efficiently or perfectly as possible in these challenging times," says Stefanie Gütlein - a credo that ideally shapes not only our view of the hobby, but of our entire everyday life.

In order to make the commute even more structured in the future and to give more space to the so important recovery phases, the software developers have also become creative: The Teams conference platform will soon present the "virtual commute" function, which can be used to cover a fictitious work route. Another way to leave the home office behind, at least in perception - and arrive back at oneself. In the real world. 

( 1 Source: statista; 2 Source: Buchreport.de, 3 Source: Picodi)