Updated: Jan 13, 2019
Another new year is upon us and in amongst those resolutions to get fit and fabulous we are hoping you made a resolution to get more creative. There’s an impressive body of established and emerging literature on the topic of creativity and wellbeing, suggesting many advantages to participating in arts based activities.
Purported benefits range from enhanced subjective wellbeing to maintaining quality of life while promoting healthy ageing, and being a general mood improver. Possibly one of the best findings is that you don’t have to have high levels of skill for it to be beneficial and act as a stress reliever. And of course there is a large amount of research to show that creative arts therapies contribute to positive clinical health outcomes.
So what can you do to make good on your resolution to be more creative in 2019? Here are a couple of ideas to get you started and to help keep you on course.
Free online art classes
The accessibility to learn art skills and techniques has never been better. You can launch into lessons that cover every topic imaginable from 10 minute demonstrations to full tertiary level programmes and you have the freedom to work at your own pace and dip in and out when it suits. Take a look at what’s available through MOOCs via websites such as Skillshare, Coursera and others.
Drawing is perhaps the simplest way to get started with creative self-expression. The minimal materials required, makes it one of the cheapest, most accessible art forms. Got a pen, or an HB pencil and some scrap paper? You’ve got all you need to draw with. Or start a sketchbook, you can carry it on you and scribble and doodle whenever the urge takes you. But like with all things, to improve your skills in any meaningful way you’ll need to establish a regular routine and you might want to learn some basics. There are other benefits to a regular drawing routine too. Drawing has been shown to help us process learning and enhance memory retention.
Expressing creativity doesn’t have to look like the work in a fine art gallery to be beneficial for us either. Crafting hobbies of all kinds — knitting, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography, woodworking, gardening, even some creative DIY activities can increase dopamine levels, improving our overall sense of wellbeing. Craft activities can embody the concept of mindfulness too. As your concentration becomes focussed on the task and you become immersed in making, your mind is able to break away from distracting thoughts. This creates a meditative state that may act to lower stress levels and enhance mental clarity.
Go to museums and exhibitions
The burgeoning field of arts and health is reporting findings that we can benefit enormously from visiting museums, galleries and community exhibitions such as Army Art. Museums and galleries are uniquely well placed to promote and inspire creativity. They are rich in an intriguing array of creative expression and invite personal interpretation in a self-directed and reflective manner. But if figuring out what you are looking at and feeling about it isn't working for you, museums and galleries are staffed by people with a passion for the arts and incredible knowledge, many offer informative engagement tours. Plus they are rarely time bound – you can spend 5 minutes or 50 in front of your favourite exhibit, and with many free to enter they are wonderfully accessible.
Join a local art group
Making art doesn’t have to be something you do all on your own either. Joining a local group can provide access to facilities that are cost prohibitive to have at home, such as pottery wheels and kilns, and space to create large scale sculptures and 3D work. They are also a great place for social connection and to expand your network of people with whom you can share skills, knowledge and laughs. If you decide to take the next step and share your work through exhibition, community art groups can provide the opportunity to make that happen.
Still feeling like your creativity is stuck and needs something extra to truly unleash it? How about trying some art therapy sessions. While it’s important to remember that art therapy isn’t the same as taking an art class. It is a process we can engage with to help us overcome creative 'stuckness'. An art therapist or creative counsellor can guide you to look at creative blocks as a growth process and assist you to reframe your self-belief about your own creativity. As the illustrator Mike McQuade said about creative blocks,
"I'm not running out of ideas, just trying to push myself into better ones."
Here’s to a healthy, creative 2019.
This video Can Art Be Medicine? shares some wonderful stories of art and creative self-expression being used to really improve people’s wellbeing.