Finding time for creativity will give you respite from worries
“Psychotherapist Josh Hogan began drawing landscapes in the first lockdown. “It gives me a sense of peace and calm,” he says. “When I’m focused on that one activity I’m not worrying about things that might happen in the future; it brings me back into the present moment because I have to pay attention to what I’m doing.
“There’s a sense of accomplishment and I may feel like I’ve really said something,” he says. “I’ve used art and creativity all my life to express myself and make sense of the confusing vagaries of life. But it wasn’t until I began my counselling training I realised that art could be used as a powerful therapeutic, tool. Expressing oneself and making sense of life are two important processes in therapy. When I began training I realised I had been doing a lot of therapeutic things without knowing it.”
…As a study led by Dr Daisy Fancourt, UCL senior research fellow for BBC Arts found, getting to grips with something new and creative is good for our mental health regardless of skill level. The research, conducted between March and May 2018 among a sample of 47,924 respondents across the UK, found that doing something creative can help people see problems in a new light.
“While activities such as creative writing can help you vent your emotions, other things like knitting or crafting can give us some space and a safe haven away from our stresses, which might provide a chance to think things through and find solutions,” says Fancourt.
Making something new is also great for our confidence. “People can be surprised by what they achieve and this can spill over into other aspects of their lives,” says Fancourt. “A great example is the Choir with No Name, which is a choir for people affected by homelessness: 70-80% of people who take part go on to volunteer or find housing and leave the streets.” While real-life choirs might be out of bounds for the moment, that shouldn’t stop us from flexing our vocal cords in one of the many online groups that have sprung in the pandemic.
….According to one study examining the links between art and health, a cost-benefit analysis showed a 37% drop in GP consultation rates and a 27% reduction in hospital admissions when patients were involved in creative pursuits. Other studies have found similar results. For example, when people were asked to write about a trauma for 15 minutes a day, it resulted in fewer subsequent visits to the doctor, compared to a control group.
Why we see these responses isn’t clear, though when we’re really into our creative “flow” many of us fall into a state similar to deep meditation. Hours flash by in minutes and for once we’re free of that nagging, critical inner voice. This flow state can even bring about changes in our body, as shown by a 2010 Swedish study on classical pianists, which found that heart rate slowed, breath deepened and, rather wonderfully, the smile muscles were activated when the musicians really got into their groove.”