Discovering extracurricular wellness
WORDS KAISHA SCOFIELD
It all started with bread. Social media feeds began filling up with pictures of perfectly formed loaves, lovingly nestled in vintage baskets or staged with linen towels. The next wave, undoubtedly influenced by the warmer weather, was a move outside, and gardens became the inspiration. Seeds started disappearing from garden stores and window sills were soon overflowing with little green seedling starts. In the evenings, when every documentary and old movie had been watched on Netflix, learning apps and master classes streamed everything from Nantucket basket weaving to symphonic ukulele.
We have entered into a hobby renaissance.
Social distancing and self-isolation have given us an unprecedented amount of extra time and many have chosen to use it on growth, creativity, education and the mastery of new skills. Baking, arts and crafts, gardening and elective education are at peak popularity. These hobbies are so popular that grocery stores face shortages of baker’s yeast, seed companies are unable to keep up with demand and online education classes are wait-listing. While we are all undoubtedly eager to return to normal life, perhaps we can find joy this gift of spare time.
Baking the perfect loaf of bread or planting an herb garden may seem insignificant, but engaging in activities that challenge us and provide an outlet for creativity can also produce a sense of purpose and the ever-important feeling of accomplishment. Learning new skills and taking on new tasks, reminds us of our capabilities, of our strength and resilience. Developing these skills increases self-reliance, helping the nervous system maintain a steady state. All forms of learning exercise the brain, and the challenge of developing a new skill, or honing an existing one, supports brain development. Neural pathways are created through all forms of stimulus and movement so the brain doesn’t necessarily differentiate between learning a TikTok dance and fighting a tiger.
Our current circumstances have provided a natural transition away from a dependence on consumables. We are faced with the recognition of just how much we rely on others for our food, goods and services. Some people are taking the opportunity to transition to self-sufficiency, which is defined as supplying one’s own needs without external assistance. Primarily, this is via micro-agriculture and hobby farming, but it can also be as simple as growing your own produce or raising backyard chickens. Having the ability to feed and create for oneself and, by extension, the community, can create a feeling of self-reliance and security.
This is not the first time in history we have turned our collective attention to creativity and self-reliance during global crisis. War times also saw the growth of skill development in the home and society. Civilians who were left behind to raise families and continue domestic life were encouraged to do their part to support the war effort through homesteading practices. “Digging for Victory” appeared on posters during the Second World War as Victory gardens were introduced to help boost produce production. Volunteers travelled to people’s homes and taught them how to turn manicured lawns into home food gardens.
The slogan “make do and mend” also comes from the Second World War. It encouraged people to make household goods last as long as possible so resources could be redirected to the military supply and munitions manufacturing. These campaigns were also used to boost morale and support community.
The ability to share our creations and connect over seemingly simple hobbies like gardening, baking or cross-stitch provides more than camaraderie. It produces a platform for community and connectivity. This is one of the only times in history that globally, we are all facing the same fear. We are more alone than ever, yet we are also more connected than ever before. Separate yet together. We are able to share in the desire for connectivity and relate to each other’s need for growth and expression. We all have chosen to share through creativity and self-expression, and, of course, beautiful loaves of bread.
As we transition away from full social isolation, restaurants, salons and boutiques are opening their doors. What does this mean for the sourdough starts bubbling on counters and the seedlings lining window sills? Will we return to the convenience of commercial production? Maybe, maybe not. But the skills developed during isolation will stay with us forever. It is very likely that growing our own vegetables, baking sourdough and even mending clothing might become the new normal.
We don’t need a pandemic to point out that we humans are incredibly industrious. Our exceptional adaptability is due primarily to our capacity to learn new skills, problem-solve and navigate difficult situations. This generation of people who endured a global pandemic and lockdown will come out the other side with the ability to harness their creativity and curiosity with an increased sense of resilience and strength.