The arts have never been more accessible - digitalisation of art galleries means we can walk through the Louvre, livestream an opera, or create masterpieces on our phones without a palette or easel. The arts really are at our fingertips and yet it’s all too easy to forgo a couple of creative hours for a Netflix binge. But getting creative offers more than just a collection of fridge door masterpieces, it can help us to destress and has even been found to lower cortisol levels, the hormone which makes us feel frazzled.
Lush Spa research and treatment developer Hannah Lammiman explains why it’s so important to keep creative, she says: “There’s a lot of artistic things on social media and we’re probably more inspired than we ever have been, but we also need to be physically doing it, otherwise we’re going to end up with a society that isn’t actually engaging. When you are physically creative you feel like you’ve achieved something.”
Expressing ourselves creatively can be a great for wellbeing, whether that’s through drawing, painting, poetry or dance (pretty much anything that gets the creative juices going). There’s no correct answer in art, meaning we can experiment without boundaries and getting creative can even make us happier, giving us an outlet for our emotions.
Hannah comments: “If you’re feeling under pressure or a bit grumpy, step out and be creative or more mindful of what’s going on, you’ll feel happier and healthier for it. It could be as simple as taking a walk down the beach and looking at the colours of the sea, then coming back and painting your bedroom that colour. People’s creativity comes in so many different forms - colour, sounds, frequencies, feelings, emotions - it’s such a broad thing. Everything is a blank canvas so be inspired by everything.”
If you’ve ever indulged in an artistic activity then you’ll probably have managed to lose track of time at some point or another. According to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, this sensation is regarded as a state of ‘flow’ - the point when we are totally immersed in something to the point where we switch off from everything else and focus only on the moment. Not only does this meditative-like state help us to forget our day to day stresses, pleasure-inducing chemicals in our brains are increased, helping us to feel good. Simply looking at a piece of art can create a surge of dopamine in our brains, the chemical released when we fall in love, showing just how powerful the arts can be.
Art helps us to be fully present in the moment, it requests us to slow down and pause, much like ‘mindfulness’ - a form of meditation that we can utilise any time of the day, no matter where we are in order to destress. Hannah comments: “When you enter an art gallery you are more quiet and focused. You come out feeling more inspired and in a different mindset to when you walked in. Sometimes we look at things very practically and we don’t think outside the box, but using the arts on a daily basis and looking at the world in a more creative way can help us to problem solve. It helps us to look at things in a different way because we are more in the moment and therefore more relaxed.”
GP’s and nurses are now able to prescribe a range of non-clinical services known as ‘social prescriptions’. Prescriptions include activities such as art, volunteering, gardening and cookery and studies have shown improvements in quality of life, general wellbeing, depression and anxiety following these exercises. Organisations like The National Alliance for Health and Wellbeing and The Arts Council are helping to raise the profile of the arts, reporting their benefits, funding projects and supporting arts and culture across England. Many organisations are slowly beginning to acknowledge the genuine physical and mental benefits of the arts.
But you really don’t have to be an artiste in order to enjoy the benefits of creativity. If you’re not sure where to start then here a few creative activities for mindfulness to help you get going.
Mindfulness colouring books
If you thought you’d left the colouring books behind, think again. Mindfulness colouring books are a far cry from the colouring books of our childhood, but they can be just as enjoyable. These elaborate designs are intended to help focus the mind, enabling us to turn off busy thoughts.
Start a bullet journal
Unlike a diary, the bullet journal offers a more visual and imaginative way to chronicle every day. From illustrations to secret codes, journallers are getting increasingly creative. If you’re not sure where to begin, YouTube and Pinterest are full of inspirational bullet journal tutorials to help you kick start your own.
Face the music
Whether you’re listening to it or making it, music is proven to have enormous effects on wellbeing, from reduced anxiety and enhanced mood, to improved quality of life and self awareness. Why not learn to play a musical instrument, try singing lessons, or simply make yourself a feel-good playlist?
Shake it off
Aside from the physical benefits, dancing can also make us feel good. It can help improve confidence, while using a fair amount of brain power and coordination, making it a brilliant all round activity for mental and physical health. Join a dance class or just take some time during the day to physically express yourself, you’ll feel great after.
So next time you’re looking to switch off, why not disconnect from technology, get creative and join the self-care club? You can read more about the benefits of slowing down to speed up here.