In my experience, mental health is not as straight forward as physical health. If your leg is broken, you get a cast put on and usually that does the job. If your appendix is… whatever an appendix does badly, you have an operation and they take it out and it’s back to business as usual.
With mental health, there is rarely a quick fix available. There are numerous different types of therapy and medication available, and often it’s a case of trial and error to see which combination of approaches may work best for each individual.
As well as this, there is the often overlooked aspect of taking care of our mental health in order to prevent problems – just as we aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise in order to take care of our physical health. Many of us don’t even consider our mental health until something crops up to highlight that things could be better. Even then, we might not think of getting therapy or asking the GP for medication.
Creative activities can help your mental health
It might not be something you’ve considered before, but creative pursuits can help with mental health – both in times of poor mental health and as a way of maintaining good mental health. Remember when there was a big craze for mindful colouring books? That wasn’t just because people enjoyed colouring; these books became popular because people found that concentrating on the intricate, detailed patterns whilst colouring them gave their minds a rest from the constant barrage of thoughts that go through our heads.
Creative activities can work in the same way as meditation
Lots of people feel that they are not able to meditate, because they can’t stop the thoughts in their minds, and they end up thinking about their to-do list or a conversation they had last week. The thing about creative pursuits is that we can find ourselves in a flow state, where we are so busy concentrating on what we’re doing, we forget to have all of these random thoughts. Suddenly we look up and it’s an hour later – but we feel like only five minutes has passed, and our brain feels somehow calmer.
Examples of creative activities you could try
As we get older, we can often find that we get bogged down in our day to day life, and forget about the things we used to enjoy as children. Often when the subject of being creative comes up, people say things like Oh, but I’m not creative! In response to this I say: When was the last time you allowed yourself to be creative? If you find it hard to think of yourself as creative, here is a list of things you could try:
- Mindfulness colouring books – there are loads of different books available, with pictures and patterns to suit every taste. Treat yourself to some nice colouring pencils – or just borrow some from your child’s stash!
- Paint by numbers – you can get paint by numbers for adults too – and they come with a kit including all of the paint etc that you need. The process of doing the painting can be incredibly relaxing and therapeutic, and at the end of it you have a picture you can hang on your wall and be proud of.
- Watch Grayson’s Art Club – a lockdown TV hit, and brilliant for inspiring you to try your own artistic creations
- Singing – whether you sing along to your favourite songs in the shower, or do something a little more formal, singing can have great benefits for your mental health.
- Dancing – this is great for getting out of your head and into your body more. You could find a YouTube video to help you learn a particular routine, or just turn the music up and do your own thing!
- Writing/journaling – this might be journaling about your day each evening, writing a story or even compiling a blog post or article on a topic that interests you. For many people (me included) writing can really help with getting into that timeless state where you can focus on what you’re doing and forget abut everything else.
- Go to a pottery painting cafe – this has the added bonus that you come away with something you’ve painted yourself. I usually choose to paint a mug or plate with a detailed design which takes a great deal of concentration. It feels so refreshing to just be completely absorbed in the task in hand, and the end result is a unique thing you can either use or give as a gift.
If you’re still not sure about the idea of embracing creativity to help with your mental health, you could even speak with an expressive therapist who can help you with these things. This article has a great explanation of how that sort of thing can work for you and what to expect.