Creative Future is a unique charity that’s been established for nearly 10 years and has helped over 4,000 people to date. We are a bridge from the margins to the mainstream, engaging those with mental health issues, disability, health, identity or other social circumstances, through their creative talent. We encourage people who feel they’re excluded from the mainstream and help them realise their artistic potential.
We put on professional development workshops, offer bespoke support and professional opportunities, and predominantly showcase people’s art and written work. This not only gives people a sense of achievement, but also an opportunity for their artwork to be seen and appreciated by the public.
Why being creative is beneficial to your mental health
Creative Future’s ethos can be applied to everyone – that being creative is good for you. Art, or being creative in some way, is a very therapeutic activity, which can take your mind away from everyday worries and stresses. It focuses your mind on the artwork at hand, the colours you’re using or the message you want to get across through it.
Being creative also encourages you to take notice – to really see something for what it is, or to even look at something differently. Just taking some time to look at the natural beauty around you can help you become more present and appreciate what we’re surrounded by. Art and writing can make you look closely at the world around you, at everyday things we would often overlook. A sunset, leaves swirling in the wind, the colours of autumn or water lapping at a shore edge. These are all beautiful things we often don’t stop to take real notice of.
Art or writing can also help you express uncomfortable feelings that you can’t easily put into words. When you’re creative, you become the master of what you feel – not the victim – and can therefore take control of your emotions and thoughts, channelling them into painting, drawing or writing.
The science of being creative
On a scientific level, when you’re painting, writing or similar, you brain goes into a state which scientists call ‘flow’. Your brainwaves change, the feel-good hormone, dopamine, is released and the level of cortisol (stress hormone) in your body is reduced. This is similar to what happens when people meditate. This in turn has a positive effect on both your mental and physical health, lowering your heart rate, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety, and regulating your breathing.
How to get creative
Being creative is simple, cheap and can be done at any time. It can be as simple as taking a pen and writing pad with you on the train to work, or out into the garden, to write about what you can see, hear or smell. Allow yourself to connect with your sense of play – something we lose as adults. Playing on a blank piece of paper can allow you to be a child again, even if just for 20 minutes.
Creative exercises to try today
Below are four creative exercises you can easily try. Two are drawing-focused exercises and two are writing-focused. Choose one you think you’ll enjoy, or perhaps give all four a try. You only need a pen and paper.
- Look at an object, or a group of objects, and instead of drawing them, try to draw the space between or around the objects. This makes you look at the world differently. It can allow you to create some very interesting shapes and potentially lead to a wonderful piece of art.
Chose an object or landscape and try to draw it upside down – the wrong way up. This frees your mind, completely taking away any expectation of what things ‘should’ look like – and allows you to experiment with art in a new way.
Write a list of 10 things that are free (or very cheap), which cheer you up. Then add a paragraph about each one explaining why it improves your mood. This makes you focus on the positive things that you can do to improve your mood. This also relates back to taking notice of what’s around you. For example, if you enjoy watching a sunset, then head out to see one and take notice of the magnificent colours and surrounding beauty as the sun sets.
Close your eyes and think of your favourite place. Think about how it smells, what you can hear, and the textures and flavours you associate with that place. Then write about it. The key here is to leave how it looks until last. People tend to gravitate towards describing something in terms of how it looks, and not so much through their other senses. This will bring your piece of writing to life, helping you to ‘revisit’ that place and experience those good feelings associated with it.
A final tip from me; when you’re writing, make sure you end with a positive sentence. Research has shown that if you finish with a negative sentence, you will dwell on that thought for a while afterwards. For example, if you’re writing about your favourite place but end with: “but I’ll never be able to go there again,” it won’t help to improve your mood and can even lead to more depressive feelings. Ending with a positive sentence will leave you feeling good way beyond putting your pen down.
Related websites and further information
The Bupa UK Foundation funds practical projects that will make a direct impact on people's health and wellbeing. Launched in 2015, to date it has awarded over £1 million in grants to 36 projects across the UK, supporting work to improve people’s mental health and to support carers.