You may have already tapped into your creativity during the last few months, having found you had more time on your hands at home. But creative pursuits don’t only help to keep us busy. Did you know that being creative has mental health benefits too? You don’t even need to be a master to reap the benefits of creativity.
When you’re doing something creative, you’re usually relaxed and focused on what you’re doing, right? When you find yourself in a creative zone like this, it may help to boost your mood, reduce stress and anxiety, help you to deal with difficulties through non-verbal expression and even help you to have a positive outlook on life. Here’s how…
Focus your mind
Creating something, whether it’s art, music, or a birthday cake, can be quite an absorbing task, which may help you to relax and focus your thoughts. Though your mind may be focused on your task at hand, the process may also help you to process and deal with your problems more logically.
Boost your mood
Creative activities, especially those that involve repetitive motions such as painting, writing, sewing and knitting, or even DIY projects and gardening, help to release dopamine in your brain. Dopamine (a.k.a. the ‘feel-good’ chemical) is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that’s used to send messages between nerve cells. This natural antidepressant may not only help you to feel good, but it may also help you to feel motivated.
Reduce stress and anxiety
Being absorbed in a task doesn’t only help to focus your mind and boost your mood. It may also help to slow your heart rate. This is particularly helpful during very stressful times, or when you’re feeling anxious and/or depressed. Take a deep breath and enjoy creating!
Deal with difficulties
Writing and journaling, for example, can help you to process your thoughts and work through any difficulties you’re facing, including trauma. A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology shows that writing about a topic you find emotional particularly helps to lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol is an important stress hormone which helps to regulate a number of processes in your body, including your blood sugar levels, metabolism, immune response, sleep/wake cycle and how you respond in a crisis. It also helps to control your mood and energy levels.
If you’re not a keen on keeping a journal, perhaps try painting or drawing as a way of expressing the emotions or experiences that you’re not able to write down or even say out loud.
Though the process of expressing yourself through creativity may be painful in the moment, it may have long-term benefits as you deal with and let go of negative thoughts and painful emotions in a productive way.
Have a positive outlook
While working through negative experiences and emotions is important, it’s also important to focus on the positive. Try writing about positive experiences or your future plans, or listing the things for which you are grateful. You may notice that the positive things in your life outweigh the negative, giving you a different perspective on life and reducing stress levels. Positivity also has other health benefits.
How can I be creative?
Try to set aside time each week that’s free from distractions to be creative. Here are a few creative activities you could try, including those already mentioned above. We’d love to hear your ideas too!
Bestmed Mental Health Helpline
Bestmed has also partnered with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) to offer members a free 24-hour mental health helpline, with the aim to support members who experience mental health issues by managing its effects, providing additional support and improving quality of life. To make use of this Bestmed Tempo wellness programme benefit, contact SADAG via: