It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK this week, so we’re taking a look at how creativity can positively impact your mental health.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, yet it often gets neglected. We all know someone who has, our have ourselves, been effected by poor mental health. This is why charities and organisations such as Mind, Samaritans, and the Mental Health Foundation work so hard to raise awareness of the importance of good mental wellbeing.
With apps like Calm and Headspace growing in popularity, the discourse around mental wellbeing has become a little more free. Popular artists like London Grammar and Arcade Fire showing their support for such apps through collaborations encourages a more shameless discussion around this topic.
It’s of vital importance that the stigma around mental illness is beaten, and looking at ways illness can be remedied is a start. Everyone has their preferred method of coping, whether it be exercise, medication, therapy, or something else. Or, indeed, a combination. At Synchedin, we’re all for championing the power of creative outlets. We’ve taken a look at just how getting creative can give you a boost and get you through challenging times.
Not to be dismissed as just a yogic term, flow is a creative state that makes a big difference to how you feel. The state of being in-flow occurs when you are fully engrossed in an activity. Time passes without you noticing, all other thoughts quieten. Flow can reduce stress and anxiety, reduce heart-rate and increase happiness.
We can thank chemicals for our fluctuating mental health. So-called “feel good” chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin are released during the flow state. Working on creative projects that produce a result are perfect for releasing these chemicals. For instance, falling into a trance-like state whilst knitting, and then finishing the scarf. You’ve achieved something, finished something, and didn’t notice the afternoon turn to evening.
Focus the Mind
In many therapy settings, creative activities are adopted to help demonstrate or discover how you are feeling. One such method could be using drawing and colours to help identify emotions to help combat apathy. Having a visual aid can assist with computing thoughts and feelings, and gives us something tangible to focus on.
Adult colouring books had a resurgence around 2015, popular with those with busy minds in need of respite. Viewed as an accessible self-help tool, the activity soon showed promising signs of improving mental wellbeing and health. A study, published in the Creativity Research Journal, reports that colouring can reduce levels of depression and anxiety.
Engaging in creative activities also aids self-expression, reducing the reliance on vocabulary. Arts like painting or moulding provide focus on the activity at hand, as well as mental activity, which can then be translated into the physical.
Countless studies have shown that exercise improves physical health and mental wellbeing, in an almost cyclical way. However, many people may feel uncomfortable joining a gym, or have physical limitations preventing them from certain activities. Negative thoughts and feelings can manifest as a build up of energy, the release of which can be hugely beneficial to your mental health.
Getting creative with physical activities is a great alternative to structured exercise. Instruments such as the drums or guitar offer a way of expressing feelings whilst using up stores of pent-up energy. Again, a lot of this comes down to chemical reactions, but in simple terms, hitting or thrashing can feel great. Treating an instrument as an extension of yourself, rather than shouting or running, can serve as an effective outlet. Almost like the feeling of getting something off your chest, 30 minutes on the drums can leave you feeling lighter and your body less tightly coiled.
As we get older, it can be difficult to avoid isolation and loneliness at times, particularly after the last year or so. Childhood friendships may remain, but networks often disperse, and we’re left to face our daily demons alone.
The arts are a wonderful way of finding new communities. Whether you join a band, go to a life drawing session, or attend cooking classes, meeting like-minded people could help forge meaningful connections with others. A huge part of caring for our mental health is having a trusted support network around us.
Furthermore, lots of people find it easier to discuss their feelings over an activity, where the focus isn’t solely on them. As creative activities relax the mind, this can encourage freer discussion. Someone who may usually feel self-conscious about opening up will have their mind elsewhere. With the mind directed somewhere other than worry and boundaries, deeper emotions can escape to the surface.
Finding a community through creativity can also mean finding people who are experiencing something similar to you. A multitude of mental health issues can leave the sufferer feeling alone and isolated. It can be challenging to believe that others have felt this way, and that anybody else would understand. By reaching a new community, possibly by releasing a video project online, you could begin to feel less detached. Even just discussing your issues with a truly understanding person can help reduce the negative feelings caused by your illness or situation. It could even lead to you discovering new coping strategies, or helping others discover some.
If you would like to access helpful resources for yourself or someone else check out these sites: