Let’s get creative – your mental health will thank you for it
We all know someone who we would define as being a ‘creative’ person. Someone who can make something out of an empty toilet roll, a pipe cleaner and a glue gun or someone who can walk into an empty room and imagine what it could be - then create that vision. Growing up - and even well into my 30’s - I wouldn’t have considered myself to be a ‘creative’ person. I saw creativity as something you either do or don’t possess and I most certainly didn’t possess it in my eyes.
I thought that to be creative you have to be able to produce something that is beautiful, perfect and that others would admire. But, I have come to realise that being creative is about so much more. For something to be creative, it doesn’t have to be perfect or even beautiful in the eyes of others. Google defines creative as “relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something”. What I take from this is that it can be anything you want it to be, it just needs to come from you.
My own journey into creativity started with a longstanding love of fabric, but no idea what to do with it! For years I toyed with the idea of wanting to learn to sew but I allowed various things to get in the way; mainly fear that I wouldn’t be good enough or telling myself there wasn’t enough time. This changed when Santa brought me a sewing machine the Christmas of 2015 and I thought "sod it" and booked on to a 10-week dressmaking course to learn the basics. From starting out making bunting, to now owning a craft business creating all manner of fabric goodness, I finally feel comfortable owning the title of 'creative'.
While training to be a counsellor, being a mum of two and working in a challenging job, I felt stressed and at my limit some days. I realised when I sewed all these responsibilities seemed to be forgotten for that time and I could go into my own little creative bubble. Although I turned my passion for sewing into a business which I’m immensely proud of, I am most happy sewing when I’m creating something for myself or as a gift. This is when there is no pressure to get it just right or no specifications to work to. I can just create what I want, the way I want it and in a time frame that suits me.
I have started to notice that the association between mental well-being and creativity is becoming more and more talked about and recognised. Articles are being shared on social media, local news stories are reporting on it and GP practices are even prescribing it! There is also a growing body of research evidencing the benefits for the general population and those suffering from severe mental illness.
So when I’m feeling a bit stressed or restless I get the sewing machine out and start creating. From painting to knitting and everything in between, being creative encompasses so much. It is a limitless definition with boundless possibilities. Other than stress relief there are many benefits of being creative. I’ve created a list of those that relate specifically to your mental well-being:
7 benefits of being creative
- Sense of achievement – having something tangible to show for your creative efforts can bring a real sense of achievement that can help you to feel really positive about yourself and your abilities.
- Improved self-esteem/confidence – starting out knowing very little about a particular creative outlet and developing your knowledge and skills over time can help to increase your self-esteem. Being able to see your ability to learn and improve at something is a great way to boost your confidence.
- Mindfulness – the benefits of mindfulness for mental well-being are well documented. Being creative can help you to distract from negative or troubling thoughts, be more mindful and therefore more present in the here and now.
- Self-expression – if we are unable to express our true selves this can cause an internal conflict that can manifest as anger, irritability, low mood and anxiety to name a few. Being creative is an alternative way to express yourself and can help you to process and communicate emotions that you may not be able to verbalise.
- Freedom in a world of rules and structure – in our modern world there are so many societal and cultural expectations and stereotypes that it is easy to feel stifled and a need to conform. Being creative allows you to express yourself without these rules. There is no right or wrong way to do it which means you can create whatever feels right for you with no need to adhere to expectations.
- Human connection – as human beings, we have an innate desire to make connections with others, creativity allows for these connections to happen when you have the opportunity to share your interest with likeminded people. There seem to be more and more opportunities available for this when it comes to creativity with the emergence of 'knit and natter' groups, sewing retreats, one-day workshops and short courses at your local community centre or college.
- Improved physical health – not only does being creative have a positive effect on your mental health, but there is various research that suggests it can improve your physical health also. A healthy body often contributes to a healthy mind.