The connection between art and mental health has been met with a growing interest where simple creative processes are showing to have great therapeutic value. Many case studies have proved that introducing the right sensory stimulations can have a profound effect and improvement on how you feel. The key is finding the one that works for you. Here are ten tried and tested creative gems that have boosted positive mental wellbeing for me.

  1. Morning Pages

This is pretty much what it says on the tin. It involves getting up in the morning early and training yourself to write three pages of anything. Yes, anything. The point is not to let your pen stop moving. It could be a dream you had, an incident that happened yesterday, a conversation, even a shopping list. Try and do this for thirty days and at the end of it, revisit your ramblings and really study what you chose to write about. This can be a very enlightening process as well as cathartic. Create a story out of it or a piece of poetry and give it wings!

  1. Immerse Yourself in Nature

Nothing beats connecting to the earth we walk on. Take yourself outside and bask in whatever sun our weather allows. It’s a known fact that sunlight raises the mood of how we feel, and if it’s raining, dance in it. Go for a walk in parks, or discover new green areas and reservoirs near you and really sit with the idea that you are connecting the energy within yourself to the energy of this planet. Listen to the music of nature, be that the wind through the trees, birds singing or the trickle of water near a stream. Allow yourself to be an observer. Soak that in!

  1. Make Your Mark through Drawing

The key to this is lots of white paper and no restrictions. There is no ‘right’ way of doing this. Grab markers, paints, colored pencils, sponges and give yourself a time period, say Friday to Sunday. Start with Friday and express how it made you feel emotionally and channel those feelings without the use of words onto your blank page. Don’t overthink. Allow the pencil, or your paintbrush to do the work. Do the same for Saturday and Sunday and observe the shifts and patterns in your mental state of mind. Though often we may feel we are stagnant with our thoughts, this activity can really show us that our journeys are marked by highs and lows that we may not have been aware of. Keep these as your mental diary.

  1. The Feel Good Jar

For those of us who deal with voices of sabotage in our heads every day, this jar is a way of exchanging negative thoughts with positive affirmations. It’s why I have called this ‘the feel good’ jar. Make a long list and yes, try and go into double figures about everything you are good at. It may be ‘I am a good listener’ or ‘I sing great karaoke covers in the shower’. Whatever you feel are your positive attributes, write them down. Then cut them out, fold them up and fill a jar with all of them. It can be very easy to berate ourselves and forget all the great things we do and whenever that happens, you can go to the jar and remind yourself of your awesomeness!

  1. Craft

We all have our hobbies. The beauty of making things and the skill used to create something from scratch can be a very fulfilling and proud moment as well as helping us relax and provide stress-relief. Anything from knitting a scarf (yes, knitting is now cool) to creating a personalised cushion, making your own jewellery or designing your own decorative greeting cards or an item of clothing, it can help keep you focused and grounded. Many have reported to feeling calmer, happier, and less sad and more confident. It’s also a satisfying experience to allow your inner creativity to come through and create beauty around you to uplift your soul.

  1. Photography

Nowadays our phones allow us to capture many moments throughout our lives that move us, upset us or inspire us. Images bombard us everyday whether we want to see them or not. This activity allows you to create your own vision board. Arm yourself with your camera and take photos of all the things that inspire you in-the-everyday. Sometimes the most beautiful images stem from the ordinary. You could go on to create your own inspirational images with your own loving words. Go on a journey of discovery and gather them all to create your own personalised vision boards of where you see now, what you want to see and where you want to be!

  1. Dream diary

These are great if you are a dreamer. Place a diary next to your bed and whenever you have a dream write it down before you forget. Many a great stories have been written from the unusual ways our brain processes all the information we have absorbed during our conscious hours. See what patterns there are or any recurring themes. Rewrite them with different endings or use them to symbolise what you may want to say about yourself if they feel relevant. Most often they are not, they are just dreams, but no doubt, dream diaries are always very interesting to read back.

  1. Colouring

When was the last time you sat down to colour? For most people it was at school or only to help with children’s activities. Going back to this can be a good way to de-stress and focus the mind on something other than screens. Concentrating deeply on a simple task in front of you makes other anxieties less present. There are fantastic adult colouring books with intricate illustrations or calming patterns. The choice is endless and how you personalise them will be unique to you. Find one you like and create a colorful montage for yourself.

  1. Vision boards

Creating a vision board has become a useful way to represent what you may want in your life, in a visual manner. It is based on the idea that visualisation of certain things can help one to focus and form a realisation of goals. Grab a big poster board and lots of magazines, photographs and newspapers. Make a collage of all the images and phrases of the dreams you want to materialise for the future and glue to the vision board. You may want to do one of dreams that you have already achieved as a momento to yourself and this is perfectly okay. Similar to the affirmation jar. Make it as inspiring as you can!

  1. Baking and Jam Making

Now before I hear cries that this is not your thing, honestly, give it a go. Studies have found that baking and jam making can work wonders for your well-being, and it needn’t take forever either. With cooking and baking now being adapted for our fast-paced lives, you can make jam doughnuts in a mug in seconds or take your time and enjoy the luxury of mixing, weighing, and savouring the delights you’re making. The concentration you master, the eye for detail and the sense of achieving something, mistakes included can contribute to the feel good factor. Try it and you’ll be amazed!

If you do try any of these, don’t forget to participate in our #creativecoping this month for it to get featured, and encourage others. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out the ones we have already put up!

Hafsah Aneela Bashir

Author Hafsah Aneela Bashir

Hafsah is a poet, writer and spoken word artist with a BA in English and Criminology and has completed an MA in Postcolonial Literary and Culture at the University of Leeds. She worked as a mentor for prolific offenders with drugs, alcohol and mental heath issues in Manchester and now works with various vulnerable and marginalised groups within the community such as refugees and asylum seekers using creative agency as a means of expression and therapy. She belongs to writing collectives, Common Word and Manchester Muslim Writers and facilitates creative writing workshops within the community working with young people to develop an understanding of identity and empowerment. Her additional work with NGO’s, providing emergency supplies and medical aid to conflict zones informs her creativity producing a form of lyrical activism. She raises awareness through this about social injustice and has a keen interest in writing as a form of resistance and liberty. Her passion lies in enabling others to empower themselves to reach their full potential and challenge the stigmas surrounding mental heath issues within society having had experience of this herself. She blogs at http://hafsahaneelabashir.wordpress.com

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