Creativity and Mental Health

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

You might feel most inspired and ‘in flow’ when painting a picture, making a handmade gift, or writing a short story. You might turn to these pursuits instinctively when you’re feeling stressed. Why is this?

It's because there’s a proven link between creativity and mental health.

How creativity benefits mental health

Creativity can be seen as an act of self-expression. It allows people to build their identity and make something that represents who they are. This act may improve self-esteem.

One study showed that just 45 minutes of art making could build confidence.

Creativity has also been linked with stress management and is shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and increase positive emotions.

A study published in 2019 found that even a small amount of creativity, such as painting or playing the piano, could help you cope with the pressures of modern life.

How to be more creative

Here’s how you can work some creative pursuits into your day in ways that help your mental health.

1. Challenge your definition of creativity.

Some people don’t consider themselves very creative. They might say they aren’t great painters, crafters or writers. But truth be told, there are lots of ways to be creative in everyday life outside of the conventional artsy endeavours.

You could turn to cooking, gardening, thinking creatively, or anything else that helps you feel calm, inspired and in flow.

2. Focus on enjoyment not results.

Being creative isn’t about your level of skill.

When it comes to your mental health, creativity is more about enjoyment than creating a masterpiece. So don’t stress about producing something award-worthy.

3. Take your time.

Pencil in your creative pursuit and really make time to relax and enjoy it, whatever it is. You could take your time to cook or bake something special, or grab a colouring-in book and spend 30 minutes bringing the pictures to life.

4. Use prompts.

If creativity isn’t something that comes naturally to you, look for prompts that may help those creative juices to flow. Creative writing prompts, for example, might help you unleash your inner Shakespeare.

5. Remember it’s about you

You can decide what feels creative for you. That might mean trying things alone, and not just doing what your friends are doing. It's up to you to decide what creativity looks and feels like for you.

Time to get help with your stress levels? We connect you with registered therapists across the UK and online counsellors. Use our easy booking tool to find your perfect therapist now.

Victoria Stokes is a Belfast-based freelance writer and editor.

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