Is creativity the solution to our growing mental health issue?

Part of my purpose of setting up CraftCourses was to help people be creative in their lives, in whatever form that may take, and in doing so protect and nourish that fragile state that it sometimes is 'to be human'. I found Rose's story below very relatable and think most of us can identify with the sense of peace that comes from being absorbed in a creative task.

Creativity - an antidote to the fragile state of Being Human?
As this week has been Mental Health Awareness Day (organised by Mental Health UK) it seems the perfect time to share a local artist and friend Rose’s personal account of how practising craftsmanship can help enormously in difficult times of life. Here is Rose's story...

"In the middle of a crucial project at university, I had a really traumatic experience. I remember how tense my body felt at that time, how slow my reactions became. The sensation of people talking and the words washing over me without my being able to grasp their significance. 

My hands reach for the lump of clay in front of me and I begin to create without thought for the technical process or outcome – just present with the action of making. 

The therapeutic process of creation
This was the first time my making became therapy, the first time it was a tool to help restore my mental wellbeing.
I dig my fingers in and breathe in the rich earthy smell, inhaling its origin. I think of clay and soil and fire, I think of water and rivers and the flow of life. I imagine the clay dug from the river bed formed into vessels and returning to the river to carry water. 
I look down and cupped in my hand is a tiny vessel, a cocoon, a womb, a place of safety. 

I repeat the process, and my mind thanks my hands. 

It is only later on reflection that I see the significance and benefit of what came over me at that point in my life. I gave myself the space to make without thinking and it produced beautiful results. 

Taking the time to learn a new skill, spend time with others and appreciate the beauty in making is a very effective way to maintain and improve general wellbeing and I would highly recommend it to anyone."

Thank you so much Rose, we relate to your experience and hear stories every day here from people for whom craft and art practices have been instrumental to their happiness and health. 

Paint and marbling... beautiful and universal patterns
Mental health for everyone

Born in 1980 when 'mental health' as a concept came with the heavy connotation of insanity, or at the least marginalisation from society, it is encouraging how much things have changed. We ALL have mental health, just as we all have physical health and these two aspects of ourselves are so interlinked that it makes no sense to focus on one without the other. 

There are plenty of studies that have found solid links between happiness and health. Cheerfulness overall is a good indicator of longevity in life and happy marriages also make a significant difference to good health, so the 'upward spiral' continues. 

Conversely, depression, anxiety and stress are all significantly linked to poorer health outcomes. What Rose describes above is the way that concentrated creativity, the act of making something with your hands, using your head and heart , creates an absorption in the task that is very beneficial to us in terms of reducing stress. 

Me feeling intensely absorbed in the process of pottery throwing.
Wellbeing, art & craft 

One of my favourite things to do, if I haven't got the time to make something, is to glance at the latest reviews we collect here on CraftCourses. There are now tens of thousands of these from happy course participants, who have met and enjoyed time with thousands of makers from all corners of the UK. Reading them reminds me powerfully why we do this, why it's important to get more people making. Why we need to create and renew ourselves throughout life.

"I left feeling proud of what I had made and looking forward to having a go at home. Thank you for a great day."
"A creative and fun experience which we all enjoyed immensely... inspiring and we all came away wanting to return ASAP. A special treat. "
"Such a treat to be able to spend a whole day devoted to creating something beautiful that I will cherish and the only interruption was a lovely lunch. Good chats and support from the others on the day too. I will definitely be doing more of this! "
More testimonials from craft & art course participants

'Be Creative, Passionate, Fulfilled, Unique, Human, YOU'. A poster 2022

Mental Health, Craft & Research

It is very encouraging to see the Government recognising the role of the Arts in mental health, both to patients and the NHS. Studies show clearly how much money can be saved if arts and crafts became available on prescription (further reading on this linked below)*.

In 2016, researchers from Drexel University in Pennsylvania discovered a 75% decrease in levels of the stress hormone Cortisol after participants had spent 45 minutes crafting... makes sense to us!

At we have thousands of creative courses and workshops all across the UK. We are continuously striving to add more workshops and learning experiences so that we have something for everyone, everywhere, to meet our vision of enhancing lives and wellbeing through crafting.

Further Reading:

*The All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing report on "Creative health: The Arts for Health & Wellbeing"
*A speech by Matt Hancock, the UK's then Health and Social Care secretary "The power of the arts and social activities to improve the nation's health."


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