We all want to be happy and have good health, do we not? Pause a moment and think carefully about what you do to ensure your own well-being? Perhaps you like to meet up with friends, go for walks, meditate, listen to music, enjoy a hobby or a sport? Perhaps you do something creative?
Creativity has for a long time been accepted as a very beneficial pastime and even used as a form of therapy. Recent research (Journal of Positive Psychology: Tamlin, Conner, DeYoung & Paul, 2016) indicates that engaging in a creative activity once a day can lead to a more positive state of mind. Researchers assessed over 600 people in terms of their emotional well-being and how much time they spent on creativity over 13 days. They found that there was an “upward spiral for well-being and creativity” in those who engaged in being creative. Basically, creative activities created a boost in positive emotions the next day. Further, the study found that creativity may in fact impact both happiness in social relationships and positivity in the workplace..
What does this mean for us? Creativity, expressed in whichever way you most enjoy, on a regular once-a-day basis, can help you to have a more positive state of mind and could even benefit your happiness within relationships and the workplace. It doesn’t matter how you express your creativity. You could keep a doodle journal, sew, knit, make cards, embroider, bake, arrange flowers, paint, play a musical instrument, or design a garden for planting.
Why might this be? When you are doing something creative, you are focusing your mind on the moment you are in, instead of worrying about the future or the past. Having a focus on your task in hand, rather than focusing on negative thoughts and anxieties, helps to reduce your feelings of stress or anxiety.
When I treat a client for depression or anxiety, I often encourage them to focus their mind on other things, such as a hobby, creative activity, or even just cleaning the house, as it reduces time spent worrying and thinking over negative thoughts. Those suffering with depression, stress and anxiety are quite often caught up in negative ruminations, worrying about the future or thinking negatively about the past. In essence, you are using your imagination in a negative way, conjuring up negative scenarios that may (though probably not) happen, or going over past events in your imagination. Imagination is powerful, and therefore we need to harness it and use it, though in the right way. We can use our imagination to design a picture, to draw or paint; to visualise where you would like your flowers to be planted in your garden; or to visualise what a particular cushion cover might look like in a certain fabric.
There are so many ways to get creative, and creativity is another passion of mine. I have been creating since I was a small child, encouraged by my mum. I was knitting scarves and clothes for my toys when I was old enough to knit. I used to love constructing buildings (e.g. the Eiffel Tower) from cardboard kits. I had a sewing one Christmas when I was about 11, and I even made my own soft toys. I would also often help my mum in the kitchen, baking cakes or cookies.
More recently (now my children are teenagers and don’t need me so much) I have time to spend on creative pursuits and have learnt to sew my own clothes. Listening to my favourite music (and singing along) whilst sewing is one of my favourite things to do, especially when there’s no one else in the house to complain about my singing! You can gain so much pleasure, not just from the actual process of making, but also a sense of achievement, which can last many months or years afterwards, every time you look at the item that you have made. One of my proudest creative achievements is my Moroccan style outdoor seating area (see picture above), which was made on a shoestring, using an old set of shelves, a couple of old cot mattresses and some unwanted pallets. I only had to pay for the material to cover the cot mattresses and make a few cushions for the back. The whole thing cost about £60 including the paint, and reused items that would have been sent to the tip. I appreciate it even more because I made it. In fact, I would say that you become more appreciative of home-made items, as you understand the care and patience that is has taken to create it.
There is always something that you can do, irrespective of your artistic ability or past experience. If you would like some inspiration for getting creative, Pinterest is a great place to start, as is Instagram. You may not be aware, but I also teach the odd sewing class and share my creative makes on Instagram and Facebook. I’ve provided the links below if you would like to check these out.
Maria Hancock,, Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist, Mindfulness Teacher, NLP Practitioner, MSc Health Psychology