In Merseyside an award winning programme for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression, Creative Alternatives, was developed as part of a ‘social prescribing’ initiative. The idea is that a GP or any other professional could refer someone for this alternative prescription – creative activity workshops instead of medication.
I love this idea, because all too often people don’t realise how important and beneficial creative activities can be for our mental health and wellbeing. And here’s the thing, you really don’t have to have artistic talents or skills to join in creative activities. There are so many choices – from guerrilla knitters to singing, from pottery to water colours, from jewelry making to decorating shoes. Being creative can involve planting, growing things, baking or building sandcastles – anything that enables us to have fun, be inventive and use our imagination.
Very often if we’re stressed, depressed and anxious, we stop doing the very activities we most enjoy. We lose motivation, feel there’s no point, or that it’s just self indulgent. That’s why the notion of ‘social prescribing’ is so powerful.
So how can we go about being creative during the Covid-19 pandemic? Can we replicate the benefits of creative activities while self isolating and social distancing?
One way is to make an ‘artist’s date’ with yourself. Book in two hours a week for play. This should be dedicated to a creative activity which you carry out on your own! It might be an activity you’ve enjoyed in the past – cooking something new, gardening, painting, sewing, writing, or photography. Or it could be literally playing, with lego bricks, plasticine, colouring – anything that involves making or creating.
Another method to encourage creativity is recommended by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. She suggests writing three pages by hand every morning when you wake. Just write whatever comes into your head, then put it away and don’t read it again for at least eight weeks.
The benefit of this is in building the habit, just writing every morning, even if it’s nonsense. She calls these Morning Pages and the practice can have a profound effect on opening up our creativity and a sense of wellbeing.
With the lockdown preventing creative community workshops and courses from happening, many new ways are being developed to get people involved online.
Some of these you can find in our Resources for Resilience pages, but I’m going to recommend one in particular which I recently discovered – Creative Isolation – an inspiring collection of online creative activities to explore during Covid-19.
‘Why should we all use our creative power……? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money’
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing a range of strategies and resources to help you build mental and emotional resilience during the Covid-19 crisis.
This is just as important as our physical strength if we were planning to run a marathon! And just like our physical health, taking care of our mental health is about establishing good habits as part of our regular routine.
We’ve been hard at work updating the Resources section of the Good Mental Health Coop website – these are resources you can use to build your mental and emotional resilience during these testing times. The Resources are divided under 4 themes – Meet, Relax, Learn, Create – please take some time to browse and check them out.
This article was originally published as a newsletter. Check out the Good Mental Health Coop website, where you can sign up to receive Carolyn’s weekly mental health updates by email, and find out more about the amazing work the Coop do. You can also follow the Coop on Twitter and Facebook, and you can read all of Carolyn’s articles for S&C here.