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How exploring our creativity can help us find calm

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From adult colouring books to art therapy, building robots, crafting, painting and the like, creativity can be a solace for so many.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

From adult colouring books to art therapy, knitting, crafting, painting and the like, creativity can be a solace for so many. These activities can help us to express ourselves and offer a calming distraction from whatever is going on in our lives, whilst gaining the satisfaction of creating something with our own hands. It is no surprise that over the last year of covid-19 lockdowns and social isolation creative endeavours have flourished, with many people picking up arts and crafts for the first time in their lives. This has helped to form communities and acted as an escape from boredom and loneliness. Thanks to advanced  technology and social media, sharing ideas and exploring new ways of making is easier than ever. Even when stuck for ideas or intimidated by the thought of trying something new, we are only one internet search away from information, instructional videos and support. It seems that people have really taken up this opportunity over recent troubling times, one arts and crafts retailer’s had a sales increase of 200% over the Coronavirus 12- week lockdown period in 2020.

The role of creativity in improving mental health began back in the mid 20th century . Art was used in sanatoriums to help thousands of tuberculosis patients  express their feelings of confinement and fear and, as a result, the term art therapy was coined in 1942. Art therapists utilise visual imagery to work with a range of difficulties including emotional or behavioural problems, mental health issues, learning or physical disability and life altering medical conditions through psychotherapy. Although often used in professional and clinical settings, art therapy has adapted to include art practices such as mindfulness that have become widely popular in every-day use.

The role creativity plays in mental health and wellbeing really is endless, it doesnt need to have rules or restrictions, it’s inclusive and explorative. I have been making art since a young age but in my late teens, when I was battling with anxiety, an eating disorder and depression, it became a distraction and coping mechanism. It helped me to process what I was feeling and slowly become more confident in talking, and making art, about what I was going through. Fast-forward to this day and my whole art practice is based around my every-day experiences through the lens of an anxious mind, which I never would have expected. Writing, drawing, painting, typing, pattern-making, poetry… whatever feels right in the moment. It still can be scary showing this intimate part of me with others but over time it has become more and more a necessity for me and I like to believe it has inspired others to be more open in their creativity.

One thing I have realised over the years is that you don’t need to be good at something to do it. Feel like singing? Sing your heart out. Bad at knitting? Do it anyway, embrace the mistakes and say it’s ‘got character’. There is joy in imperfections and creating is about the process of making, not what comes out of it . Dance, draw, design, dive in and don’t hold back.

Watch how Vincent is using creativity to help him cope during the lockdown:

Vincent S , Phd Student, Robotics

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