Make, Bake and Create for Mental Health

Carolyn Barber of Portsmouth’s Good Mental Health Cooperative, and local researcher and social entrepreneur, shares advice and resources on how to manage your mental health in lockdown. The Coop is running a mental wealth programme throughout August, and Carolyn explains how the creative activities on offer are good for mental health.

‘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 and accumulation of objects and money.’

Brenda Ueland

Have you ever felt completely absorbed in an activity? Commonly people doing physical exercise like jogging or swimming describe that feeling of being ‘in the zone’, and that’s one of the greatest benefits of exercising. There are plenty of other activities you may get that feeling from – gardening, cooking, crafting – something that means you’re fully involved, enjoying the process, and gaining a deep sense of satisfaction.

Repetitive creative motions like knitting, drawing, or writing help activate that flow, and are all tasks that create a result. And when you succeed at creating a result, no matter what it is, the sense of satisfaction floods your brain with dopamine, that natural anti-depressant.

This idea of being in flow, and the benefits for good mental health and wellbeing, have been studied by psychologist Milhaly Csikszentmihalyi. The effects are similar to meditation with focused concentration on the present moment, absorbing our minds so we have little sense of time and our thoughts are not wandering off into the past or the future. Creativity reduces anxiety, depression, and stress and it can also help process trauma.

It’s a win-win that creative activities that make us feel good really are good for us. So grab a pen and start writing, doodling, or colouring. Get messy with pottery, baking or gardening. Listen to some music, or pick up an instrument. Whatever you decide to do, it’s time to start getting creative!

Our Mental Wealth Academy Summer Online programme has experimented with online creative workshops and courses, alongside mindfulness, discussion events and personal development. Journal Writing, Art and Wellbeing and Enlightened Bellydance workshops have actively engaged over 50 participants in the past 6 weeks.

While there is still time for people to register and catch up with these courses, the programme will be finishing at the end of August when the funding ends. We are hopeful that we can continue the Mental Wealth Academy courses, both in real time in the autumn, but also online.

So, this is an opportunity to seek your views on what kinds of workshops or courses you’d like to take part in, in the future. We can then pitch these ideas to future funders.

Please click here to complete this very short survey on the future of the Mental Wealth Academy. Be great to get your feedback!

We recognise that this has been an incredibly challenging time, coping with sudden and dramatic changes in our lives, intense feelings, anxiety about the future, loss of contact with loved ones, experience of illness and bereavement.

At the Good Mental Health Cooperative, we believe that connecting with others, and informal arts and wellbeing learning activities, are really important ways to take care of our mental health, and build the emotional resilience we need to get though these difficult times.

The programme takes place mainly through July and August, and includes the following:

  • Weekly livestreamed ChitChat Cafe meetings on Facebook
  • Twice weekly 30 minute live mindfulness sessions
  • Journal writing course – 5 weekly sessions
  • Live arts and wellbeing workshops – 5 weekly sessions
  • Live Embodiment Through Movement workshops – 5 weekly sessions
  • Discover Yourself – self development course – 7 weekly sessions
  • Working Through Worry – 7 weekly sessions
  • Two Mental Wealth Trialogue live discussion events

Full details about the programme and registering your interest are available here.

Additional resources

Each week we share a range of strategies and resources to help you build mental and emotional resilience during the Covid19 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.

You can also find information about local support and services available if you’re feeling emotionally or psychologically distressed. Click here for Resources for Resilience.

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.

Photo by Shukhrat Umarov from Pexels.

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