In Merseyside an award winning programme for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression, Creative Alternatives, was developed as part of a ‘social prescribing’ initiative. The idea is that a GP or any other professional could refer someone for this alternative prescription – creative activity workshops instead of medication.
I love this idea, because all too often people don’t realise how important and beneficial creative activities can be for our mental health and wellbeing. And here’s the thing, you really don’t have to have artistic talents or skills to join in creative activities. There are so many choices – from guerrilla knitters to singing, from pottery to water colours, from jewelry making to decorating shoes. Being creative can involve planting, growing things, baking or building sandcastles – anything that enables us to have fun, be inventive and use our imagination.
Very often if we’re stressed, depressed and anxious, we stop doing the very activities we most enjoy. We lose motivation, feel there’s no point, or that it’s just self indulgent. That’s why the notion of ‘social prescribing’ is so powerful.
So how can we go about being creative during the Covid 19 pandemic? Can we replicate the benefits of creative activities while self isolating and social distancing?
One way is to make an ‘artist’s date’ with yourself. Book in two hours a week for play. This should be dedicated to a creative activity which you carry out on your own! It might be an activity you’ve enjoyed in the past – cooking something new, gardening, painting, sewing, writing, photography …. Or it could be literally playing, with lego bricks, plasticine, colouring – anything that involves making or creating.
Another method to encourage creativity is recommended by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. She suggests writing 3 pages by hand every morning when you wake. Just write whatever comes into your head, then put it away and don’t read it again for at least 8 weeks.
The benefit of this is in building the habit, just writing every morning, even if its nonsense. She calls these Morning Pages and the practice can have a profound effect on opening up our creativity and a sense of wellbeing.
With the lockdown preventing creative community workshops and courses from happening, many new ways are being developed to get people involved online.
Some of these you can find in our Resources for Resilience pages, but I’m going to recommend one in particular which I recently discovered – Creative Isolation – an inspiring collection of on-line creative activities to explore during Covid 19.