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Mental Health Awareness Week 2020: Wellbeing and Creativity in Quarantine

22 May 20 words: Rachel Willcocks

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020), and for most of us, it looks a lot different from the years previous. It will be a challenging time for all of us - both those who have suffered from bad mental health previously and those who have not. Maybe we'll be more aware of it than we were last year, as the world around us feels ten times more vulnerable. But as we navigate these new and quite frankly damn right weird times, more and more of us are awakening our inner artist to help keep our insanity at bay.

The average person has about 60,000 thoughts in a day. If even half of which were negative, that's a massive mountain of pessimistic glum, full of anxiety-inducing, draining, not to mention scary pandemic thoughts to deal with. So why not attempt to balance out your feelings by picking up some creative activities injecting a splash of colour to steady your train of thought from coming off the tracks?

Unlike the lockdown rules, creativity knows no bounds, which is why it's the perfect tool to feed off isolation boredom and break free from your new 'norm'. Plus, flexing our creative muscles has been proven to help people manage their mental wellbeing. 

Tickle your imagination and use art to go someplace where the pandemic doesn't exist. Paint, draw, sew, write, photograph, dance, sing and whatever else you can think of to focus the mind and calm the body. It really doesn't matter whether you're the next Picasso or can only just about manage a stickman with background scenery - it's the action of doing summit’ creative itself that's good for you!

Painting a few strokes on a canvas or doodling away on a piece of paper; when we're creative, it opens up our mind to an immersive state of flow. This hypnotising state boosts our mental wellbeing and slows our heart rate (especially good for people who suffer from depression or anxiety). Having a go at repetitive creative motions, such as knitting, or craft-based tasks including DIY, can release dopamine (the chemical that boosts your mood) in our brains. 

Not to mention, getting involved in a new creative skill can open up groups and organisations online, which help motivate you to keep at it and create a sense of community. A few of our favourite Notts-based organisations and groups to follow include the Covid-19 Drawing Project, Nottingham Playhouse's The Big Distan-Sing and the Young Producers' Group from City Arts. Or you can get involved with national initiatives like the Life of Hold project helping to raise money for the NHS and Mind.

Disclaimer alert: we're not all going to come out of lockdown with a newfound creative passion. Still, maybe we'll advance a little further from stickmen drawings and find another coping strategy to look after our wellbeing. So what are you waiting for - grab a paintbrush, pen and pad, string and fabric, colouring pens, sticky glue, collage scraps and moulding clay, get creative and see where your mind takes you.

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