Benefits of Creativity for Mental Health

Benefits of creativity for mental health

One in four of us will suffer will a mental disorder at some point in our lives [1]. Taking into account the fact that the current world population is 7.8 Billion (and counting) [2], that is a hell of a lot of people! Suddenly, I don’t feel so alone!

If you also make up one of these numbers, greetings, friend. I wanted to share with you something I do to help me get through the difficult times. I find that turning my mind to creative pursuits really helps to refocus and calm me. Using creativity for mental health has helped me enormously over the past ten years, and I want to share some ways in which you can use it too.

Art Therapy in the 1940s

Creativity for mental health is not a new concept. Art has been used as a form of therapy for many years. In fact, the term ‘art therapy’ was first used in 1942 when Adrian Hill, a British artist, discovered that his creativity in the form of painting and drawing aided his recovery from tuberculosis [3].

Margaret Naumberg

American artist and psychologist Margaret Naumberg, known as ‘the mother of art therapy,’ developed her own model, called ‘Dynamically Oriented Art Therapy’ during the 1940s. Naumberg was unique in that she used her form of art therapy as a primary therapeutic application rather than simply an add on tool to regular psychotherapy.

In fact, Naumberg considered art therapy as a distinctive form of psychotherapy in its own right, recognising the fact that thoughts and feelings are often easier to reach in the form of images rather than words, and that interpreting the inner personal meaning of symbols provided insight into the subconscious mind [4]

creativity for mental health - painting and drawing
Art as a form of therapy dates back to 1942

Healing Effects of Creativity

Since the 1940s, creativity for mental health has developed into a popular and effective therapeutic method. And there has been a great deal of research conducted on its efficacy and healing potential. Books such as ‘Art Heals‘ by Shaun McNiff, and ‘Grief and the Healing Arts – Creativity as Therapy‘ by Sandra L Bertman have contributed to the evidence that creativity has many potential healing effects for the mind, as have many scientific studies [5, 6, 7]

Benefits of Creativity for Mental Health

Research shows that Creative Arts Therapies (CATs) can benefit people of all ages and backgrounds. The potential benefits of creativity for mental health include:

  • Stress resilience
  • Communication
  • Clarity of mind
  • Concentration
  • Understanding of self
  • Cognitive function
  • Self-esteem
  • Confidence
  • Relaxation
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Reduced feelings of isolation and loneliness

DIY Art Therapy

In almost any city you can find details of many professional art therapists. But, you don’t need to visit a professional therapist to gain benefits from creativity. We can all access our innate creativity at home, using whatever medium excites us most.

Disclaimer – I am not saying that you shouldn’t see a professional therapist, not at all. Professional therapy in all its forms is a vital part of the healing and management process of mental health conditions for most people. I am simply saying that you can access the benefits of creativity for mental health right now, from home, on your own, if you wish to, and that it can be an effective addition to your current mental wellbeing treatment and management plan.

Types of Creative Activity

The type of creative activities you can do are almost without number. If you don’t like drawing or painting, it doesn’t have to be art – you can choose to write, or sculpt, or make mosaics, or do scrapbooking, or flower pressing, or basket weaving, or upcycle old furniture, the possibilities are endless! There is a myriad of ways you can use creativity for mental health management and emotional healing.

Some of my current favourite creative activities are:

  • Journalling (writing and art)
  • Writing (stories, poetry, non-fiction)
  • Drawing/sketching
  • Watercolour painting
  • Jewellery making
  • Digital art
  • Adult colouring
  • Making natural bath and body products
  • Making notebooks and journals

And in the past, I have done candle making, sewing, knitting, cross-stitch, cooking and baking, paint by numbers, singing, dancing, acting, and photography. I love trying new things and what I enjoy changes over time.

But the point is, creativity feeds my soul and allows me to become absorbed in the present moment. It is a way that I can express myself freely without explanation or justification. Since I started using creativity for mental health reasons my creative projects have improved and so has my ability to manage my mental and emotional wellbeing.

Creativity for mental health - adult colouring
Adult colouring is a popular anti-stress activity

Mindful Presence

I think that one of the major benefits of creative endeavours is that they bring you into the present moment. They are a form of mindfulness activity. According to the famous spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle in his bestselling book ‘The Power of Now,’ there are no issues in the present moment. All our problems come from our minds being in the past or the future. Problems are not present in the Now. So, we can access this problem-less state by rooting ourselves firmly in the present moment. And for me, that’s what becoming absorbed in a creative activity does.

Trancending Time

You may have experienced this for yourself. Have you ever started doing something, only to realise that hours have passed and you weren’t even aware that 10 minutes had gone by? You were so absorbed in the activity that even time had no meaning – another of Tolle’s teachings from the ‘Power of Now.’ That’s the power of creativity for mental health.

“Ultimately, this is not about solving your problems. It’s about realizing that there are no problems. Only situations – to be dealt with now or to be left alone and accepted as part of the ‘isness’ of the present moment until they change or can be dealt with. Problems are mind-made and need time to survive. They cannot survive in the actuality of the Now.”

– Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Creativity Spotlight

Over the coming months, I am going to do a ‘Creativity Spotlight’ feature on the blog, showcasing a different form of creative activity and providing instructions and examples to help inspire your own creative journey. If there is a particular activity that you would like me to feature, please let me know in the comments box below this post.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this brief overview of the benefits of creativity for mental health, and you give it a go. I would love to see your creations, so do feel free to share. I will be sharing some of my own projects in the ‘Creativity Spotlight’ posts. If you don’t want to miss upcoming posts, ensure you sign up for my newsletter. As a thank you gift you will receive my mini self-care planner and journal (one of my creative projects) to help you infuse self-care into your daily routine. Click the image below to download your copy.

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