Words by Lydia Paleschi
Not only is creating art fun, there is also a growing body of research to show it’s good for our mental wellbeing. Taking the time out to create is an act of self-care, which can leave us on a more positive footing for the rest of the day and beyond. Here are a few of the key ways in which creativity can make us happier.
You’ve probably heard of flow state – it's the frame of mind we enter into when we're completely immersed in something. Whilst working on creative projects it’s common to enter into flow; to lose a sense of place and time because all of our focus is centred on the task at hand. During this period, we’re completely in the present moment, which means we're taking a break from the stresses of everyday routine. Once we come out of flow, we’re usually rewarded with a feeling of satisfaction as we reflect on what we’ve created and are able to admire our work. Science shows that this can reduce anxiety, boost mood and even slow our heart rate. Plus the body releases dopamine, which can leave us feeling good for hours on end.
When we’re focussed on a creative exercise, the brain reacts in a similar way to during meditation, mindfulness, and yoga. By blocking out external stimuli, we are more in tune with our thoughts and emotions, as well as the sensations in our body. As we draw, paint and create, our attention is on our artwork and so everyday distracting thoughts drift into the back of our mind. By focussing on the movement of our hand across the page, the texture of the paper and the various colours and details we are creating, we give our minds space to recover and recharge.
Connecting with others is key to living a healthy and fulfilling life. Creative hobbies make for great group activities, with the social element and enjoyment aspects both being good for mental health. Even online group activities can improve mood and wellbeing.
With botanical illustration comes the additional benefit of immersing ourselves in nature. Going on a walk to draw inspiration from nature for our artwork and spending time in our local area is a sure way to boost our mood. If you decide to get creative in an outdoor space, the benefits are two-fold. Research shows that spending time outdoors is a way for us to connect to the natural environment, which is thought to be crucial to maintaining good mental health. Otherwise known as ‘ecotherapy’, this is now prescribed by some medical professionals to help alleviate stress, depression and anxiety.
There is a plethora of research which indicates the benefits of pursuing a creative activity go far beyond those listed here. If you've experienced any additional benefits, let us know in the comments.