Why creativity is crucial for mental health

Hi everyone, I just thought that this was an important subject to talk about in the wake of National Mental Health Week and following just one of those tricky weeks for me – see I told you it wasn’t always sunshine and roses!.

So I’ll set the scene; A busy weekend, following a very busy few weeks, = feeling slightly worn out, leading to a full-on Summer cold (I hate being ill!), add a splash of SATS for my 11 year old (which means a lift to school instead of bus as he does not want to be late) and a stressed out 13 year old daughter who think her maths homework needs to be in the following day, not the original date of Friday last week. Add in a logistics plan, set days before because hubs is out, son at tennis, daughter at swimming and I need to be a her French Trip meeting at school, so none of this allows for a last minute change of plan to do said homework.

Que huge, gigantic teenage strop on the way to swimming, me very much losing my patience and son plugging in his headphones to drown us out in the car. Summer cold escalates, I can barely speak by the time I pick her back up, not that I want to anyway, and the ironic ending to this story? She stays up late to do the homework, I drop her off at school the next morning and she finds out that it didn’t need to be in until next Wednesday after-all, the bldy joys of raising a teenager!

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So yes, this all felt extremely stressful in the midst of it that night when she refused to listen to anything I said and just became increasingly dramtatic ‘You don’t understand, she is the strictest teacher Mum!’ and I frankly felt pants from the onslaught.

However, let me be clear, I’m very aware of how lucky I am and how, and that even on bad days or weeks I can usually pull myself out of that stressed out cloud when everything has calmed down and I know that it’s just one of those days and tomorrow, I pray, will be better and hopefully she won’t still want to be put up for adoption, I mean seriously? She could win an Oscar!

I know that for a lot of people it is so much harder than a stupid argument with conditions like anxiety, depression and all kinds of mental health issues being scarily on the increase and much more common these days.

The area of positive psychology and mental well-being is an important subject to me not only as a mum of two children who are going up fast in a high-pressured world, but because I have many friends and family members who struggle with various mental health issues and I try to help them in any way I can.

But it does weirdly then effect me, because I worry about them, and if truth be told, I don’t fully understand it all, which is why I want to understand it more. These days I try more to just listen and not always ‘fix’, which is not easy when your natural instinct is to problem solve.

I’m sure a lot of this has more to do with how drastically our lifestyles have changed, especially over the last 20 years I’d say.

Life is so busy, so jam-packed, so looking-after-everyone- else or worrying what others think about us that often self-care, a little me-time or time to do anything creative is shoved so far down the list or, it’s not even on there at all.

I firmly believe that if people spent more time accessing creativity or at the very least doing my go-to-stress-buster, i.e going out for a walk amongst the trees, by water, listening to the birds, watching the squirrels dart up the trees, then it would help a little at least with mental well-being and feeling more positive.

I know it wouldn’t solve everything overnight, but we have to look for these small actions that when done regularly, can make a big difference.

Nature for me is not only my instant stress remedy but an important part of prevention too. It’s also a constant source of inspiration for my daily dose of creative photography for my @soothedbynature instagram account, my artwork and even writing too.

Many experts site doing something creative is like a form of active meditation, putting yourself in the ‘flow’ state and releasing those feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine.

Take this information provided by forbes.com

‘The average person has about 60,000 thoughts in a day. A creative act such as crafting can help focus the mind, and has even been compared to meditation due to its calming effects on the brain and body. Even just gardening or sewing releases dopamine, a natural anti-depressant.

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Creativity reduces anxiety, depression, and stress… And it can also help you process trauma. Studies have found that writing helps people manage their negative emotions in a productive way, and painting or drawing helps people express trauma or experiences that they find too difficult to put in to words.’

This all may sound pretty obvious, but what if you consider this as a health activity for your brain that you treat as important as those hours in the gym, or that hour on the tennis court or a whole day on the golf course?

Of course, exercise also helps with mental health too but creativity has a big part to play and has also been linked to helping with age-related diseases such as dementia.

I know that time is precious, and we are all busy but why not try just scheduling out 15 minutes a day to start with and see if you notice a difference in how you feel? I’m pretty certain that you would soon come to relish your creative time and notice the difference in your stress levels.

I know the positive impact it makes on my life, and I now crave that creative time and I can really feel the negative difference if I don’t get the opportunity in the week to be creative in some way.

Alternatively, if you’d rather spend longer and assign an evening to creativity whether at home or at a class, then just give is a go, don’t let fear hold you back, it’s the act of doing something creative that has instant benefits, not necessarily the result and the more you practice, the better you will get.

The benefit of joining a class is that not only do you learn from others, but you make new friends too – another huge plus for well-being when we are spending less and less time these days communicating face to face and being genuinely social – we are social creatures who seek out that sense of community afterall. That evening or day class could become very special to you and a new fundamental part of your life.

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However, if it’s difficult to get to a class, consider inviting some friends around and just play with paint over a cuppa, messing about with materials is the only way to learn and it doesn’t have to be a master piece, it’s about the fun and connection of trying something new.

Ok, hopefully by now I’ve convinced you this is worth doing, worth having a go, so here is a menu of quick 15 – 30 minute creative projects to get you started.

Activity How
Mandala or colouring books These are hugely popular and for good reason! Colouring in is incredibly therapeutic and something you can complete over time and pick up easily when you have a few spare minutes and the choice of designs now is huge!
Or create your own Alternatively create your own patterns and background drawings to then colour in later, check out some ideas from @yorkshiremermaid !
Create a new recipe or work from a cook book It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with cooking but creating food is incredibly relaxing when you take your time and there’s no hungry kids to feed!

Simple things like soups, biscuits, a new salad or omelette are quick to do, try the BBC Good Food Soup and Sides little recipe book for some simple ideas.

Create your own notebook A bit like backing books in school! Buy a simple plain notebook and card, decorations, even a wallpaper sample you like and cut it to size and stick to the front. If it’s personalised and appealing, you’re much more likely to use it!
Create a poem And we’re not talking ground-breaking literary perfection here! Just getting your brain thinking in a different way can heighten creative ideas.

Think of a childhood memory, a holiday, a family member you could describe, your idea of the perfect hobby shed; the list is endless. Remember it doesn’t have to rhyme or be technically correct!

Create a bucket list of creative projects you want to try Even doing a list can be creative – doodle it, use different colours for different ideas and then pin it somewhere you will see regularly and you’re more likely to take action.
Tweak your home interiors If you don’t want to buy anything new, have a change around, rearrange furniture, swap cushions and pictures, collect some spring flowers to arrange, or use up that tin of paint in the shed to paint a shelf or even do a stripey wall if you want to be really adventurous!.

Using your eye to create a new view is very satisfying and refreshing – you’ll love your home more too.

Paint for the bin (unless you produce a masterpiece of course!) If you’ve never tried watercolour painting it can feel intimidating but again it’s all about just experimenting.

Even better get a few friends round so you don’t take it too seriously and you can all have a go at just playing and seeing how the paint and paper behave together.

Paint a little further There are 1000s of YouTube videos available that teach you step by step the basics which you can watch at your own pace. You’ll be surprised at the results and gain confidence the more you do.
Become a Rockstar Ok that’s a little extreme, but listening to some new music can really get you in the mood creatively.

Alternatively sing loudly, pick up that old guitar or tinkle on the keyboard or do what I do when everyone’s out and bash on the drums (my son’s) – completely out of beat but boy does it feel good!

Sketch out in the garden, the park, your local woods or reservoir Combining fresh air and sketching is probably one of the best tonics. Start of slowly to gain confidence, a flower pot, a bench, a leaf and then build up.

Not only does it feel good, you’ll have a sketch book of memories to look back upon.

Soup, sketch, style, smile…..a creative half an hour can do so much for your mental health

So, I hope this helps to add some creative time into your week to reap some of the mental well-being benefits and enjoy trying something new. Ultimately if you’re as curious as this sheep in the main picture, you won’t go far wrong! As I continue along this blogging journey, I’m sure I’ll add in more ideas from time to time.

So, let me know if you do try any of these, I’m still a relatively new blogger so it really helps to know if I’m on the right track with the creative topics I’m writing about!

Thank you and until next time (and hopefully cold free!)

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

 

 

 

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